I know what you’re thinking:
What’s the hold up?
Man, he’s really milkin’ this.
He sure seems to love the attention.
Why’s he so indecisive?
That last one is fair. You got me. I’ll concede that. It’s true: I’m one of the last high school recruits in the class of 2017 who still hasn’t declared my college choice. And one of my goals right now in life is to get better at making the right call despite having incomplete information. Snap decisions will happen 150 possessions per game in college and even more in the real world, so I’m constantly trying to improve this.
But the first three? C’mon, now. Y’all need to know that’s not my style, so I want to tell you about my process. Actually, I’ve heard a lot of “Trust the Process” here in Philly where I go to high school, so let’s call this something different. Let’s call it “Mo’s Rocks.”
PHOTO BY CHRIS RAZOYK
I once saw a video of a guy giving a lecture on how to be more effective at prioritizing daily tasks. He has an empty jar and an assortment of things he’s trying to fit into it — big rocks, medium-sized stones, tiny pebbles and a pile of sand.
(Spoiler alert: The only way to fit everything into the jar is to put the big rocks in first and then work your way down, finishing it off with the sand.)
To me, the real lesson of the video is about prioritizing what’s important in your life — and why. “Big rocks first” has become a mantra for me.
So what does this all have to do with basketball and recruiting? A wise man once told me that your college decision is an outright reflection of who you really are on the inside. So before you know my decision, you gotta know who I am, where I come from and what I’ve done to get here.
I remember the first time I started to think about writing this letter. It was just a couple of days ago as I was heading back to school on the bus and worrying about a lot of different things. Some of those worries were normal for any high school senior with three weeks left on the clock: homework, final exams, my upcoming driver’s test, prom — and of course my college decision.
Others were unique to my upbringing and family situation. How do I better myself and build a long, successful career that will 1) ensure that my father won’t have to drive a cab 70-plus hours a week, including nights and weekends, and 2) ensure that my mother — my true rock — will never have to worry about me again? What high school should I recommend to my younger cousins who so dearly want to be like me (even though they’ll never admit it)? How can I convince them that one of the best ways to avoid trouble in Harlem is by attending a school outside the city — like I did?
COURTESY OF THE BAMBA FAMILY
The most meaningful compliment anyone has ever paid me is that I’m “mature beyond my years.” They were probably just attributing that to my physical gifts, but deep down I’d like to think that I’ve been making some incredibly difficult adult-type decisions ever since elementary school. I’ll tell you about those someday if I get invited back here to write another piece, but the “big rocks first” mantra has helped me navigate these adult situations. It was only natural that I use it for my college decision.
When all was said and done, one school filled my decision jar the best.
I’ve decided to attend the University of Texas. I will be heading there in early June to get to work.
Why Texas? Why would a kid from Harlem travel 1,750 miles from home to pursue his goals? Well, big rocks first:
Coach Smart may not have been aware of it, but I put him through a weeklong job interview last summer when he coached me on Team USA in Valdivia, Chile. We instantly formed a bond. Now, the tables have turned, and I’m the one interviewing with him, hoping to show I can play a major role in his team’s success next season. His attention to detail is truly unbelievable — I can’t tell you how many times he picked up on something I mentioned in passing and brought it back full circle several months later. I’ve seen firsthand how much he genuinely cares about me and my family and how he’s going to challenge me to be in a state of continuous improvement.
How can a projected “one-and-done” college athlete get a real college education? That gets thrown around a lot and I want to go on record as saying that the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. My academic focus is not just lip service. It’s extremely important to me and my family, but I also firmly believe that the best class I’ll ever take will actually be taught by the people I will surround myself with.
I feel especially fortunate to explore my academic interests within the McCombs School of Business, one of the nation’s top undergraduate BBA programs. Learning from world-class professors and classmates in Austin, a city that’s renowned for tech and innovation, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Oh, and that alumni network — man, the Horns are everywhere! I can see and feel their passion and I’m excited about aligning myself with them for a lifetime of support and learning. I’ve seen firsthand the power of this from my time at Westtown and Cardigan Mountain.
These two big rocks were the true keys to my decision — without the coach and without the “beyond basketball” element, the stones, pebbles and sand wouldn’t have mattered that much.
Strength and Conditioning
I spent a lot of time studying the sophisticated strength training at Texas, and how much every movement is measured and tracked to find ways to optimize the body’s performance. I know I need to add some weight and I want to make sure I’m doing it the right way, safely, while focusing on injury prevention. Texas’s emphasis on plyometric and core training, teaching the proper loading and landing mechanics, and its no-shortcuts approach to recovery really resonated with me.
I can’t say enough about the strides my friend Jarrett Allen made this past year. I saw his footwork improve. I saw the spots they put him in — where he was shooting, passing and stretching the paint like a modern five. Most importantly, I saw his confidence grow throughout the season as he distinguished himself as a possible lottery pick. I’m thankful for the blueprint he laid down and I hope to follow in his footsteps.
Pebbles and Sand
It’s hard to rank the exact order of these, but I definitely took into consideration the overall school environment, the college town atmosphere, how easy it would be for my family to visit (five different airlines have a direct flight from NYC), my idol Kevin Durant’s deep involvement with the Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation at the school, and my own gut feeling.
Oh, and the weather….
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to some sunshine after 19 years of New York and Philly winters!
COURTESY OF THE BAMBA FAMILY
Everybody’s recruiting process is unique in some way, and mine was no different. Watching my family grow and solidify its bond was by far my favorite part of the experience. The world is bigger than 94 by 50 feet, and we all agreed that Texas offers me an exceptional opportunity to blaze my own trail on the basketball front with the comfort of knowing that no matter what happens, I’ve got an unrivaled support network to lean on for whenever the ball stops bouncing.
You can’t put a price on that, but you can tie a lasso around it.