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Prospect Watch: the awakening of Mo Bamba?

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Taking a look at Mo Bamba’s recent offensive explosion and other NBA prospects impressing scouts.

Texas Tech v Texas Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images

There’s a moment in Steven Spielberg’s 1991 classic, “Hook” (yes, that Steven Spielberg; yes, that Hook), where Peter Banning (Robin Williams) dines with the Lost Boys at a massive banquet table. One problem: there isn’t any actual food.

The uptight, pragmatic bore that he is, Banning won’t have any of it. After much effort, and one of the most creative name-calling battles ever filmed, the Boys convince him to use one of his greatest weapons of all: his imagination. Suddenly everything for Peter clicks. In that moment he becomes The Pan. The Lost Boys are finally on his side, exclaiming, “You’re doing it Peter! You’re doing it!”

Watching young athletes, teenagers, on the brink of tapping in to their sky-high potential can be a bit frustrating. Ups and downs in the development process of NBA hopefuls are inevitable, and allowing the player to find their game during that journey can really test patience.

But when they do — when they unlock weapons in their game and explode toward their real ceiling? Well...it’s like finally feasting at the banquet table. You’re doing it Bamba, you’re doing it! More on that later...

On to the games!


THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1

Creighton @ Villanova (5:30 CT, FS1)

We’ve written about Villanova wing Mikal Bridges in previous PWs. And it struck me while watching Nova’s nail-biting win over Marquette last weekend that you can follow Bridges’ numbers and see they’re impressive, they are. But there are little things he does that are more than just a mark in a box score, and that’s why he’s projected where he is.

In a close game Saturday, Bridges came up with a score-stopping strip, an offensive rebound, and the game-sealing assist. All in the final two minutes. Winning plays without scoring points. A coach’s dream.

This matchup intrigues me, though, because of his opposition. Khyri Thomas, the junior shooting guard from Creighton, who shared the Big East Defensive Player of the Year award with Bridges (and Josh Hart) last season, is a lockdown perimeter defender, and flashes next-level 3-and-D potential. He’s a possible early second-round selection, making Thursday night a really fun perimeter battle.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 3

Florida vs Alabama (3 CT, ESPN)

Lottery pick Collin Sexton continues to impress leading the Crimson Tide, most recently getting a W over Trae Young. Sexton gives off a lot of electricity, and he has an NBA frame and poise that makes him a lot of fun to watch.

But pay attention on the other side of the floor to Jalen Hudson, the redshirt junior wing for the Florida Gators. After spending two seasons at Virginia Tech with mixed results, Hudson made the move and is coming in to his own in Gainesville. He possesses great size, and, like Thomas at Creighton, flashes 3-and-D potential, shooting 42 percent from deep this season (37 percent on his career).

It’s unclear where he projects in the draft (if at all), but he’s got time to prove his worth. And he has a great opportunity Saturday against a lottery pick guard.

Texas vs Oklahoma (5:15 CT, ESPN)

As I mentioned above, there are signs that Mo Bamba is finally hitting his next offensive gear.

Though his best performance to date has to be his 22 point, 15 rebound, eight block performance against Kansas at the end of December, Bamba strung together a couple top-notch games last week against some lesser opponents. Against Iowa State and Ole Miss, Bamba had 49 points, 27 rebounds and seven blocks combined. ...not bad.

The defensive center should be set up for a good opportunity Saturday against an Oklahoma squad that is vulnerable to any major post presence and is inconsistent on the road. And if anything, this is another good excuse to watch the dynamic Trae Young. This should be a good rivalry game in Austin.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6

Kentucky vs Tennessee (6 CT, ESPN)

We’ve talked about this semi-confusing Kentucky squad a lot on PW lately. As always, Calipari’s team is full of potential and has a flare for the dramatic, with plenty of close calls and comebacks.

Last week, as featured on Prospect Watch, the Wildcats (led by Kevin Knox) won in a tough road environment at West Virginia. The probable lottery pick Knox exploded for 34 points in the game — by far his best performance of the season.

But it is probably time to start taking a closer look at Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Kentucky guard who has sort of come out of nowhere as the backcourt leader. He led Kentucky to a W Tuesday night with 30 points of his own. He’s shown some ability to play off the ball, with good size and defensive potential, and his three-point shot is coming along. It remains to be seen how far he could jump in the draft, but he’s worth keeping your eye on.

Who else are you watching? Let us know down below!