In his second-year at the helm, 49er basketball coach Ron Sanchez will be looking for a player to lead a particularly young team. Amidou Bamba might just be his guy.
Bamba, with 34 starts to his name, is no stranger to collegiate basketball.
Originally from Toronto, Canada, Bamba has bounced around the United States quite a bit the last few years. Coming out of high school, Bamba had a bundle of schools looking at him and had several offers from Division I schools.
The 6-9 forward spent the last three years at Coastal Carolina and now will be a vital part of Charlotte’s men’s basketball team after deciding to spend his last year of eligibility in the Queen City back in May 2019.
He had plenty of options to play as a graduate student. Harvard, Rice, Northeastern and Charlotte were giving Bamba a look but the location and new direction of the basketball program had him sold.
“It really came down to a professional standpoint. Being in the city, Charlotte being the second biggest financial hub in the country all led to the decision,” said Bamba. “Just the conversations I had with a couple of the guys really spoke about the rest of the team.”
With a finance degree already in hand, Bamba hopes to jumpstart a career in Charlotte once he graduates with his masters.
Coming to North Carolina isn’t unfamiliar territory for Bamba. He played high school basketball just up the road in Greensboro with High Point Academy after leaving his home country at the young age of 16.
“High Point wanted me to come down and be apart of what they were building,” said Bamba. “It really helped me develop my skill.”
All these years later, he will have a different role with his new team.
Bamba will be one of two graduate transfers on the Charlotte roster. The 49ers, with seven total new players, will have a new-look roster from top-to-bottom but Bamba will bring a much needed veteran presence to steer his new team in the right direction. He averaged 16 minutes and 5.5 points a game in his last year at Coastal.
His experience goes beyond college ball. Bamba played for the Canada U-19 team in 2017 that shocked the basketball world and took home gold in the FIBA World Cup in Cairo, Egypt. During that experience, Bamba was able to play with and against some great talent including current New York Knick R.J. Barrett who played on that same U-19 Canada team.
“It really was an honor to be selected to the 12-man roster,” said Bamba of his time with the Canadian National team. “It was an unbelievable experience given. We had never won a FIBA championship, so winning it was great for not only me but the country as well.”
Aside from playing with NBA talent with Canada, Bamba also played with current Miami Heat rising star Bam Abebyao in high school. Given Adebayo is a big man like Bamba, Amidou feels like he learned valuable lessons most players don’t get the chance to take in. The two went at it everyday in practice and still keep in touch to this day.
“Playing with guys at that high of a level really drives you and shows you how much you can improve as a player,” Bamba said. “You can really bounce ideas off each other and improve each others games.”
Another big time name Bamba was able to play with was former NBA first-round pick Thon Maker.
That world-class basketball that Bamba was able to take part is something he hopes he can bring to Charlotte and help re-energize the program. He will only be in the program for a year but he hopes it’s enough time to lay down a foundation.
“Because of my experience, I want to be able to contribute as a leader and bring that NCAA experience to the team,” Bamba said. “I want to share my wisdom to the younger guys and contribute where needed.”
Experience is a key asset Bamba is bringing but his defensive presence in the post will be something Charlotte has been looking for. He racked up 66 blocks while at Coastal. He’ll fit in just right with fellow big-man Milos Supica who is coming off of a 15-block season.
Throughout the year, Bamba knows he won’t be asked to gather up a lot of points on a nightly basis. He’s more than happy to help in other ways.
“I’m at the point in my career where I understand I’m not going to be the guy who is called on to score 20 points a night, but I might be the guy to grab every rebound,” said Bamba. “I just want to help out in those areas and score where is needed.”
The stage is set for Charlotte to make huge improvements and get back to being a top-tier program. Bamba wants to set the goal high for his teammates no matter what the expectations are.
“The goal is always to win a championship, every team has that mindset,” said Bamba. “Because I have only one year here, I want to help lay the groundwork so we can recruit better and help Charlotte Basketball be the best it can be.”
When Bamba sees the new team and what the program is becoming, he can’t help but think of the glory days in the 1970s when Charlotte made the Final Four in 1977.