The South Carolina Gamecocks can tell us to take our beloved stars we attach to recruits and to shove them down our throats.
Thursday the program landed Ibrahim Doumbia, who might only be a three-star prospect, but contains so much potential he might as well be considered the epitome of awesomeness.
A 6-8 power forward, nothing you will read about him — at least from a measurables standpoint — will scream “future great player.” The reason for that: He has mostly avoided the grassroots scene to an odd degree for someone with Division I aspirations, making it much harder for those who cover the nation’s best high school players to gauge his abilities.
Reading is one thing. From what we have seen, however, he is as impressive an athlete as you will find, especially considering he is relatively new to domestic basketball.
A native of Mali, Doumbia came to the States just over two years ago. A steep learning curve was to be expected — both culturally (an underrated aspect in all of this) and on the hardwood. It was easy to think that adjustment would hamper a player with his marvelous athletic abilities.
Hugo De La Rosa, who mentored Doumbia for the last two years, spoke to 247Sports and offered great context about the prospect and what he represents.
“His strength is that number one he’s a tremendous athlete at his size.” De La Rosa said.
“He’s frankly above and beyond that. He’s developed an IQ to the game and he understands how to play with or without the basketball, which being an international kid, especially from Africa, coming to the States, it’s very rare to become a wing. We usually put them into a shoebox and slide them into the five spot and say he’s a big. Mind you, he can guard bigs because he’s big, long and athletic.”
If anyone is worried about the shift from one country to another, De La Rosa puts that idea to ease. He claims Doumbia has not only “become quite a leader,” but that “he’s now become proficient in the language.”
Obviously, we can’t just take De La Rosa at his word. Even though he is a respected basketball mind — who, mind you, has cultivated a number of NBA players in the past — it is not as though he went on the record to state that Doumbia is two years away from being two years away.
But there is stock in what he is saying.
Doumbia, who has shown an improved jumper since arriving in the United States, is viewed as an undersized power forward. That’s fine, if not currently accurate. Yet, it is worth noting that his freak athleticism can make up for that. It’s also important to stress that he is developing into a wing more than a post player.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin is betting on the possibility that Doumbia can evolve in terms of both confidence and technique. If the bet pays off — though not likely in an immediate fashion — it will help the coach in his continued quest to turn the Gamecocks into annual world-beaters.
Doumbia is joining a 2017 South Carolina recruiting class that is currently viewed to be ho-hum at best. As of this writing, only one other player is committed to the Gamecocks. (For what it is worth, this other prospect is “only” a three-star as well.) Putting too much stock into that, as we circle back a bit, would be unwise.
Doumbia could very easily be considered a better prospect had he been more easily available to scout, which in turn would change how we view South Carolina’s 2017 class.
Doumbia is an imperfect beast. He isn’t going to get the South Carolina faithful into a frenzy — not right away, at any rate. It might take years until his “idea” becomes a matter of fact, and who even knows who will be around to see it through… if it even exists at that point.
That said, with all other things considered equal, athletes such as Doumbia do not come around very often. They simply don’t. While elite-athlete doesn’t automatically equate to great player, it is one hell of a start.
Ibrahim Doumbia is a potential monster. I suggest we don’t forget the name. He might be great. He might not. No one yet knows, but at the very worst we will at some point get to watch a player who can jump out of a building.
There’s no losing in that.