Even in these challenging times, there is always a reason to smile… College Hoops is still on and March is somehow insight. To celebrate this fact, during the next weeks and months I will be taking a deep look at some of the most important international student-athletes in College Basketball, guys working their way up the leader aiming for the 2021 NBA Draft.
Sit, relax and enjoy the ride with a few future College Basketball International picks
Charles Bassey: There will be giants
VITALS / STATS
Lagos, Nigeria 10/28/00 – 6’11-235lbs / 7’3 Wingspan-9’2 Standing reach
Junior / RS Sophomore at Western Kentucky: 2020 C-USA Pre-Season POY
2020-21 Season: 17.8pts, 12.2rbs, 3.43blk / 11 double-doubles (16 games)
If you have ever watched Charles Bassey’s talents on a basketball court, everything suggests that he’s about to join a proud tradition of Nigeria’s big men formed in US Colleges that got drafted and got to play in the NBA. The legend of Akem Olajuwon started the trend in the 80s at the University of Houston, and since then other Nigerian-born student-athletes have followed the path. Names such as Michael Olowakandi, Obinna Ekezie, Festus Ezeli, and just last year Precious Achiuwa and Udoka Azubuike.
Bassey is also the perfect example of what the “Trust the Process” motto means to be. But the process wasn’t meant to be easy for this former five star who leads the nation in shot-blocking and rebounding. Surely, Charles has gone places at Western Kentucky, but he’s had to work for it every step of the way since he was first spotted selling fried chicken in the streets of his hometown Lagos.
He moved to the USA two years later, at 14, on the back of an MVP in the Giants of Africa Camp (organized by Toronto Raptors’ executive Masai Ujiri). Bassey played HS in Texas first and then for the Ohio Aspire Academy, collecting more MVP awards and invitations to prestigious international events such as Jordan Brand Classic, Basketball Without Borders, and Nike Hoop Summit.
Amid some eligibility questions, Charles reclassified and committed to Rick Stansbury’s Hilltoppers in the summer of 2018, passing on a fair share of genuine Power-5 offers. After a solid freshman campaign and the customary ‘test the waters’ procedure in the Draft, Bassey returned to Bowling Green. Hard luck struck him early on in his sophomore year with a fractured tibia in a game against Arkansas. He had surgery on his left leg and was out for the season.
Injuries are a bitch, but this one was also a probe of extreme resilience in the middle of a global pandemic. It took Bassey almost 10 months to get back on the gym with full-contact activities, regaining sensations, and doing what he enjoys most: to play hoops.
GAME, STRENGTHS, AND OUTLOOK
Charles Bassey’s performances with WKY over the season suggest he could very well suit up for the pros and produce the goods tomorrow. He’s built like a tank, especially his upper-body: the tremendous frame and wide shoulders combined with freakish wingspan, mobility and muscle to play through contact which would be hard to match up at any level of basketball. On top of those traits, Bassey’s post-injury fitness and motor have grown hand in hand with his overall athleticism and quickness, as a result of his conditioning and all the hard work put on during the pandemic.
Overall, this season Charles’ pop, speed on the open court, and body control in traffic look much better, and ready for the next step. Besides, his physical profile bodes well with what Rick Stansbury has assembled at Western Kentucky: Bassey is the only Hilltopper above 6’7 in the roster and has become the reference on both ends.
He’s been well supported by Taveion Hollingsworth in the backcourt and by 6’5 Carson Williams’ versatility and balance in the forward spot. At this stage it would be difficult to understand Bassey’s game without Williams providing spacing and toughness, as well as swapping frontcourt roles in offense now and then.
Let’s take now a closer look at Charles Bassey’s skill set and NBA Draft prospects.