Let Matt Coleman tell it: “Longhorn nation, the wait is over!”
LonghornNation The Wait is Over! HOOKEM BABY pic.twitter.com/hwWl1BqDZm— Clifford❗️ (@mattcoleman2_) January 16, 2017
Well, the wait for Coleman is over.
With what Texas Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart dubs as the 'missing piece' finally on board, the eyes of the burnt orange nation are now upon a talent that may serve as the 6'11 cherry on top of yet another top five class -- Mohamed Bamba.
And make no mistake about it; Texas has emerged as a very realistic landing spot for the five-star power forward.
What began as borderline disbelief during the fall when it was noted that the ‘Horns were included in Bamba’s unofficial top seven has now shifted towards cautious optimism after the elite big man included Texas in his final four just days ago, along with Kentucky, Duke and Michigan. Coleman’s commitment was necessary to authenticate the Longhorns legitimacy in Bamba’s recruitment down the stretch, as Smart will be tasked with outlasting recruiting gurus in Kentucky’s John Calipari and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, and Texas got just that on Monday morning.
Smart and his staff proved that’s possible last cycle by landing five-star power forward Jarrett Allen over Kansas and Kentucky, and did so again Monday morning with Coleman passing up Duke for Texas.
Now a Longhorn, Coleman, too, has turned his eyes towards Bamba, among others.
“I’m working real hard,” Coleman told Adam Zagoria of his efforts to get talent to join him in Austin. “I’m working on Mo and Brian Bowen a lot. Trying to squeeze Kevin Knox in there if I can.”
Knox is projected as a near-lock to Duke at this point, and though he included Texas in his final five and took an official visit, five-star La Lumiere small forward Brian Bowen is likely headed to Michigan State where his cousin Jason Richardson starred. But Coleman feels good about his chances with Bamba, whom is also being recruiting to Duke by five-star power forward Wendell Carter and to Kentucky by five-star guards Hamidou Diallo and Quade Green.
“Yeah, yeah, so I know, we all good guys, but I got an upper hand on Mo, I think,” Coleman told ZagzBlog.
Considering the entire current crop of Longhorns are expected to be back next season — Allen is a toss up, but his falling draft stock indicates he’ll return — Texas is on pace to feature a deep, experienced and talented roster with one scholarship available — an opening Smart and Coleman hope to fill with the Bamba.
As noted, there’s plenty to like about Texas’ chances down the stretch
For starters, Coleman seems to have some favoritism behind the scenes with Bamba, which isn’t much of a surprise. The two officially visited Texas together on Oct. 28; a visit that was said to have gone extremely well. More notably, though, as part of the Team USA U18 squad last summer, which competed and won a gold medal in Chile, Coleman and Bamba were teammates, along with current Longhorn freshmen Jarrett Allen and James Banks. Oh, and Smart was the head coach of that Team USA roster that ultimately included three Longhorns and potentially a fourth in Bamba.
If Bamba hopes to envision what being a member of any of his four finalists entails, there’s no greater resemblance aiding the Longhorns than having played alongside three of them under the guidance of Texas’ head coach.
That’s a distinct edge Kentucky, Duke, nor Michigan can replicate, though the roster did include the two Wildcats actively recruiting Bamba to Lexington.
Another selling point that’s much easier to buy coming from the mouth of Smart, as opposed to Calipari, Krzyzewski, and even Michigan’s John Beilein, is the opportunity for immediate playing time, and lots of it.
Based on the projected 2017-18 rosters, incoming freshmen and potential NBA departures, here’s a look at the rotation’s Bamba may join at each program:
- Expected Returners: Freshman C James Banks, junior PF Dylan Osetkowski
- Incoming Freshmen: 4-star PF Jericho Sims
- Potential Departures: Freshman PF/C Jarrett Allen (likely returning), senior C Shaquille Cleare (graduating), senior PF Mareik Isom (graduating)
- Expected Returners: Sophomore C Isaac Humphries, freshman PF Sacha Killeya-Jones, freshman PF Ty Wynyard
- Incoming Freshmen: 5-star PF P.J. Washington, 5-star SF/PF Jarred Vanderbilt, 5-star C Nick Richards
- Potential Departures: Freshman C/PF Bam Adebayo (expected to enter draft, but has fallen out of lottery in various mocks so it’s possible he returns)
- Expected Returners: Sophomore C Chase Jeter, freshman C Marques Bolden, freshman PF Javin DeLaurier
- Incoming Freshmen: 5-star PF Wendell Carter
- Potential Departures: Freshman PF Harry Giles (NBA)
- Expected Returners: Sophomore PF Moritz Wagner, junior PF D.J. Wilson, freshman C Jon Teske, sophomore PF Brent Hibbitts, freshman PF Austin Davis
- Incoming Freshmen: 4-star PF Isaiah Livers
- Potential Departures: Senior PF Mark Donnal (graduating)
Regardless of which roster he joins, Bamba will see the floor and plenty of it. At Kentucky or Duke, the term plenty likely resembles something in the ballpark of 20-to-23 minutes each time out while being surrounded by a slew of other elite talents. In Austin or Ann Arbor, that number inches closer towards, and quite possibly upwards of 30 minutes. For such a prolific prospect, Bamba’s played his recruitment fairly close to vest so it’s unclear exactly how significant the additional reps may be when it’s time to choose his college destination.
What is clear and previously noted, though, is that Bamba loves the city of Austin, has academic aspirations beyond the hardwood and has a relationship with Texas’ current coach and latest. And while some may argue that if Bamba wants to win before likely turning pro after just one season, he’ll take his talents to Rupp Arena or Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The same would hold true in Austin, though. Now that Texas has its point guard in Coleman, Bamba coming aboard would immediately insert the ‘Horns into the national conversation next fall.
The hope on the 40 Acres is for this collective sum of selling points to be enough for Bamba to buy in on a future as a Longhorn.
In mid-November, ESPN analyst Adam Finkelstein said, "If you had to identify a favorite right now, it’s probably Texas." With Coleman, whom Bamba has a great relationship with, now in the fold, the Longhorns may once again be the favorite to add the New York City product.
When asked of his message to Texas fans following Monday morning’s commitment, Coleman told 247Sports, “Just stay patient, baby, because change is coming soon.” If the ‘Horns latest pledge has any say in the matter, the change that’s coming soon will include the most highly-rated prospect to join the burnt orange nation since Kevin Durant (No. 2 overall) in 2006 — No. 3-ranked Mohamed Bamba.