Thanks to his 7-foot frame, insane 7'10" wingspan and a freshman season at Texas in which he swatted away everything near the rim, Mo Bamba is a unique physical specimen. His otherworldly build and defensive acumen have made him a top prospect, but as the June 21 draft approaches, the 20-year-old center is working hard to develop a new look.
The transformation requires a team of experts: skills trainer Drew Hanlen to fine-tune shooting mechanics and post moves; fitness guru Amoila Cesar to add strength; physical therapist Rory Cordial to prevent injuries; and personal chef Avery Pursell to fuel Bamba's engine. With a boxing or beach workout thrown in once a week, Bamba spends nearly eight hours a day, six days a week on his new regimen.
"Up until this point, he's been super talented but hasn't got the results he's capable of," says Hanlen. "If he has the ability to score and make plays and improve his strength, he'll be super valuable when you add in the defense he already brings to the table."
As a template for reshaping Bamba's game, Hanlen uses lessons learned from two of his other clients: the Celtics' Jayson Tatum for shooting mechanics and the 76ers' Joel Embiid for offensive playmaking, particularly off ball screens. Hanlen’s plan is to advance Bamba through three stages of development: first, simple walk-throughs and basic breakdowns accompanied by film; then adding some physical contact with dummy defense; and finishing with competition against other NBA players, in order test Bamba’s decision-making skills. The goal is to arm him with an arsenal of post moves: three options for attacking off the back down, three for the baseline, three shot fakes and three jabs.
Hanlen also corrected Bamba’s shooting motion by lowering the location of his shot pocket and moving his elbow out to the right side so he could have better vision. “It’s a constant battle between encouraging him and challenging him,” Hanlen says.
In the gym, Cesar's focus is to help Bamba bulk up and reach his goal of 230 to 235 pounds—he weighed 226 pounds with 6.2% body fat at the combine in May—while still improving agility and strength. Hypertrophy training—or exercises specifically designed to cause muscle growth—is a key part of Bamba’s workouts, but Cesar also emphasizes hip mobility and the eccentric phase of exercises (when muscles lengthen) so Bamba can pop off the ground more quickly.
“We are making sure we get everything a little bit stronger so he can produce greater force with his arms, which will help when he’s jockeying for position in the post,” says Cesar. Because Bamba came in with superior mobility, especially for someone his size, Cesar works on improving his range of motion.
It's all about building a better Bamba. Says Cesar, "If anyone was watching him throughout college, there is going to be a notable difference just by the way he looks."