Mo Bamba’s local burger joint of choice? Shake Shack.
His favorite pizza place in Austin? Home Slice. “It’s the closest thing to New York pizza here,” Bamba said Tuesday.
His biggest piece of unsolicited advice to all Texas athletes? Skip the golf cart. “I’d say take the bus. You never know who you’re gonna meet,” he said.
And the standout UT freshman who is going pro had one final word for all elite-level basketball recruits.
“My message would be pretty simple,” Bamba said. “If you want to have a great relationship with your coach, if you want to be told the truth, yet you don’t want to be babied, I think you should come to Texas and play for coach (Shaka) Smart.”
Bamba, in his final meeting with local reporters, looked relaxed in loose-fitting shorts and a UT golf shirt while sitting inside Cooley Pavilion. He absolutely wants to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft on June 21. He will spend the next few months hoping to show NBA general managers why.
“I bring a lot of things to the table,” Bamba said. “Set aside all the basketball stuff, I bring a lot of things to the table as far as culturally and just who I am as a person. I could easily see myself as a guy in any city.”
Bamba led the Big 12 in rebounding (10.5) and blocks (3.6) and had some memorable battles against the league’s talented big men. “Konate,” Bamba said, referring to his favorite matchup against West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate. And his one-handed dunk against Virginia Commonwealth will live on forever on the Internet.
But now that the season is over, Bamba said he’s growing up fast. He’s been communicating with various friends around the league to learn more about what’s ahead. He said he hasn’t chosen an agent, and will participate in the NBA scouting combine in mid-May, assuming he gets invited.
“My time here was special, just as far as what’s been laid out on the table for me,” Bamba said. “It was literally everything I needed when I was here. It sucks that it was one year. Obviously I would love to come back and play more. But this is the direction that I’ve decided to go.
“Austin is easily one of the greatest cities in America,” he added. “It’s part of the reason why I chose to come to Texas as opposed to anywhere else. I can easily see myself being a guy where, I could see you guys downtown later today. This place is special. It’s a different kind of energy here.”
Bamba is excited the upcoming draft will be at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, about an hour-long subway ride from Harlem, his home. “It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “I think it will really bring everyone together. That’s the goal, honestly. I get to see everyone in my neighborhood just come out and be together.”
Bamba credited the coaching staff, his teammates and the environment at UT for helping him get to this position.
“One thing I’ve got to give credit to my teammates for is that they really let me in,” Bamba said. “I didn’t really get exiled because they knew I wasn’t going to be around for a long time. They really let me and let me be myself, and I’ll forever be happy for that.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.