CHICAGO — Mo Bamba is one of the headliners of this summer’s draft class.
The former Westtown School and Texas standout has the length and athleticism to be an elite shot blocker. That’s one of the reasons why the 20-year-old is projected as a top 5 pick in the June 21 NBA draft.
However, there’s a knock on the center: It’s his motor.
“I may not agree,” he said, “but that’s definitely something that someone said about me. I definitely want to look at it, internalize it and get better at it.”
Playing hard is what he intends to do during the NBA’s annual scouting combine.
“Play hard. Play hard,” Bamba said. “Play hard for long spurts of time and just dominate.”
He revved up his motor on Wednesday and Thursday when he was interviewed by 13 teams. The 76ers were not one of the teams he met with.
Mo Bamba had the longest measured wingspan at the combine at 7 feet, 10 inches. That’s three inches longer than Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike, who finished second. Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson, who met with the Sixers, was third at 7-5 ¼. Bamba also had the highest standing reach at 9-7 ½.
The 225.6-pound Bamba also was the third tallest at the combine without shoes (6-11 ¼).
“I actually think I’ve grown a little bit since the pre-draft process started,” Bamba said.
He averaged 12.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.7 blocks this past season for the Longhorns. Bamba was a second-team all-Big 12 selection. He also was named to the conference’s all-defensive team.
“I’d say my biggest strength right now in one word is just my presence,” Bamba said. “Both offensively and defensively, the presence that I have is pretty profound. I don’t think any other prospect has this presence.”
He thinks his presence more so than his wingspan are why people compare him with Utah Jazz shot-blocking center Rudy Gobert. The 7-2 Gobert has a 7-9 wingspan.
“You know just being that rim protector. That elite rim protector,” Bamba said. “One difference between me and any other prospect in this class is I’m plugged into the NBA right now. I don’t really want to be cocky when I say this, but I really feel I can be one of the best rim protectors in the league, you know as a rookie.”
He admitted that there are a lot of areas he needs to work on. Bamba said one is playing lower. He said playing lower makes players more explosive and they can finish after contact.
Bamba said people don’t understand the depth of his love for basketball.
“This is what I want to do,” he said. “I owe this thing my life. There’s no other way around it. This is what I want to do for the next 20 years of my life.”