AUSTIN, Texas – Making the leap from high school to college basketball has its challenges, probably none bigger than being able to adjust to the speed of the game. For Texas freshman forward Mohamed Bamba, making that adjustment has been a boon for himself and the Longhorns."I think the biggest thing is the game is slowing down for me," Bamba said. "College is night and day different than high school. One of the most important things [to help the transition] is getting in, getting your reps shooting and finding your rhythm."
In the Longhorns' 85-72 home victory against Ole Miss in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday afternoon, Bamba found his rhythm, scoring a career-high 25 points while converting 6-of-8 field goals and a career-best 12-of-13 free throws. He added 15 rebounds, one shy of his career high, to post his 10th double-double of the season and added four blocks in 28 minutes.
Double-doubles have become the norm of late for Bamba, who has picked up four in the last five games and seven in his last 10 contests. His teammates, including junior forward Dylan Osetkowski, have noticed the change in Bamba's game and credit it for the growth of the team as a whole.
"Having him play at a high level takes the team to another level," Osetkowski said. "We're trying to match him every day, because he's playing great."
Junior guard Kerwin Roach II echoed the sentiment and added that Bamba's improved play has led to better production from those around him.
"It makes us more dynamic," Roach said. "Once he gets going, the defense is drawn to him so the guards can get off shots. That's one of the main reasons I've been shooting the ball so well. They've been drawing to him and I've been getting the kick out for wide-open 3-pointers."
Mo Bamba's last two games for Texas: 24.5 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 3.5 BPG, 3-3 from three-point range. Quietly going into beast mode. Longhorns have won three of four.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 28, 2018
Bamba is quick to credit his teammates for helping him to turn a corner and have a bigger impact on the game.
"As soon as the game started slowing down for me, my teammates have done a really good job of finding me and putting me in the best position to score," Bamba said. "I know my teammates are going to do their job to try and get the ball in the post. (By) making their jobs easy, it makes the game easier for everyone."
Among the aspects of his game that have improved is his free throw shooting. He connected on 12-of-13 attempts against Ole Miss after hitting all four of his tries against Iowa State earlier in the week on Monday night.
"I'm just coming into it and being as confident [at the line] as I can be," Bamba said. "Just taking my time and completely resetting. Take a breath and the rest of it is pretty simple."
Roach believes that Bamba's efforts in practice are a major factor in his improvement.
"You see it in practice and you see it in the game," Roach said. "His growth in the game, his impact in the game is crazy. He's scoring, he's making free throws and he's doing it all."
While the game may be beginning to slow down for Bamba, he acknowledges that there are many areas of his game that he can work on and improve.
"I think I can still do a better job of sealing and imposing my will," Bamba said.