By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Baylor men’s basketball landed three key recruits this week to add to its 2018 signing class.
Center Florent Thamba and power forward Ibrahim Ali were both verbally committed to Baylor, but officially signed on to play for head coach Scott Drew last week.
Thamba, a 6-foot-9 shot-blocking big man from Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Va. chose Baylor over Illinois and Nebraska.
Thamba, who verbally committed on January 15, said he chose Baylor because Drew and his staff can help him develop his game.
“I developed a good relationship with the coaches,” Thamba told Bears Illustrated. “I felt it was the right place for me to develop my craft on and off the court and especially under great guidance of coach Drew.”
Ali was originally a class of 2017 recruit, but took a year off to work on his game and garnered offers from Arkansas, Georgetown, Nebraska, Wake Forest and Utah before committing to Baylor on March 5.
Ali, a native of Little Rock, Ark., said his relationships with the Baylor coaches made the Bears a clear front-runner.
“I chose Baylor University because the relationship the coaching staff established with me from the very first day made me feel at ease,” Ali told Bears Illustrated. “I was very comfortable with them and I’m certain that working with them will definitely help make me the best player I can be.”
With the departures of senior big men Jo Lual-Acuil, Jr., Terry Maston and Nuni Omot, the Bears only return one post player in sophomore-to-be Tristan Clark, so the freshmen will likely see playing time right away.
Drew said both freshmen have the potential to be professional-level players, but need to develop during their time at Baylor.
“Flo and Ibby are extremely hard-working, coachable young men with tons of potential,” Drew said. “They both started playing basketball just a few years ago, and their best basketball is certainly ahead of them. We’re excited to see them follow in the footsteps of similar big men who have come to Baylor and developed into pros.”
In addition to Thamba and Ali, the Bears picked up another commitment this week. Auburn freshman point guard Davion Mitchell made his transfer to Baylor official on Saturday via his Twitter account.
Mitchell, the former No. 63-ranked prospect in the 2017 class, averaged just 3.7 points and 1.9 assists in 17.1 minutes per game serving as a backup for the Tigers in the 2017-18 season.
Mitchell will sit out the 2018-19 season and have three years of eligibility left for the Bears.
Thamba, Ali and Mitchell join junior college shooting guard Darius Allen, Yale transfer point guard Makai Mason and Westlake small forward Matthew Mayer in Baylor’s 2018 recruiting class.
Moreover, transfer forwards Mario Kegler and Freddie Gillespie will be eligible this season after sitting out the 2017-18 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.
The Bears return seniors Jake Lindsey and King McClure as well as sophomores Mark Vital and Clark from last year’s team.