Texas freshman Mo Bamba played only 14 minutes in last week’s Big 12 tournament as trainers kept him off that sprained left toe. Now, he’s ready for the NCAA Tournament.
“I think I’m at 100 percent,” the Big 12’s leading rebounder and shot blocker said Sunday. “I just can’t wait to get out there and play.”
Bamba still has a few more days to get ready, though. Tenth-seeded Texas opens against seventh-seeded Nevada on Friday, giving him almost another week of rest.
All 7-footers should take extra precaution with their feet, and Bamba is no exception.
He initially suffered the injury at Oklahoma on Feb. 17 when Bamba said he landed wrong on another player’s foot. Bamba played through the pain at Kansas State on Feb. 21 but could barely walk after 31 minutes of action. He literally shuffled up the arena tunnel to the bus.
Bamba played the first half against Oklahoma State and sat down at halftime. He was held out against Kansas, West Virginia in the regular-season finale and against Iowa State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament.
Bamba’s 14 minutes against Texas Tech were four more than Texas trainer Laef Morris had agreed to. He finished with 10 points and four rebounds and one block.
“I felt pretty good,” Bamba said. “I wanted more minutes, but obviously there was a restriction. But I just took it like a man. It kind of showed a little growth. I was kind of surprised how I took it. If that was the case in high school, and I had to play restricted minutes in high school, I wouldn’t have taken it well. I would have tried to sub myself back into the game.”
Texas coach Shaka Smart said he believes — knock on wood — that Bamba could play more minutes against Nevada “if the game was tomorrow.”
The team practiced for 80 minutes on Sunday, and Bamba went through about half the workout, Smart said.
“We practiced today, and it’s like, how much do you put him out there?,” Smart said. “He practiced for about 30-40 minutes and we said that’s enough big fella. You go shoot. The last thing we want to do is make him move backward.”
Texas will need all the frontcourt ammo it can muster in the NCAAs. While the Wolf Pack isn’t a particularly big team, it has multiple players listed at 6-foot-7. Nevada’s Jordan Caroline averages 8.8 rebounds per game.
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