Villanova basketball might be losing future lottery pick Cam Whitmore, but they already have his replacement lined up. TJ Bamba, a second team All-Pac 12 guard out of Washington State and one of the most coveted players in the transfer portal, committed to Villanova. In doing so, the highly coveted junior guard chose the Wildcats over a raft of suitors such as Kansas, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Auburn and St. John’s.
“This gives me the best chance to reach my ultimate goal of playing in the NBA,” Bamba told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. “Players in my mold like Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo have gotten drafted from Villanova and proven to be valuable pieces. My hope is to follow in their footsteps.”
Last year with Washington State, Bamba averaged 15.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. More impressive, he led the Cougars to an 11-9 conference record, marking only the second time in 15 years that Washington State had a winning record against Pac 12 team. By committing to Villanova, Bamba is signaling that he’s ready to win and return to his East Coast roots.
“Playing in front of family more often played a major role in my decision,” Bamba said. “I look forward to embracing the Villanova Way and the battles that the Big East is known for. I know there will be an adjustment playing for a new coach and with new teammates, but the adjustment is easier when we all know mutual people, we all know how to play high level basketball, and we all have a common goal of winning.”
For the Wildcats, plucking Bamba from the transfer portal is a massive coup, offering much-needed reassurance that Villanova basketball still has cache in the post-Jay Wright era. Although Neptune struggled last season and Villanova missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, his strong offseason has shown that the brand of Villanova basketball still resonates. Even if UConn and Marquette head into next season as the presumptive favorites to win the conference (if not the national championship), Neptune has ensured the Villanova will be in the mix to reassume their spot atop the Big East. Beyond signing TJ Bamba, he convinced All-Big East seniors Eric Dixon and Justin Moore to use their fifth year of eligibility to stay in Philly, giving Villanova the star power to matchup with just about any other team in the country.
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