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  • Quinn Pilkey

NBA Draft '19: Charles Bassey Season Preview


Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Bassey didn't start playing basketball until age 12. After moving to the United States at 14 to continue his career, controversy has followed the 6-foot-10 big man from San Antonio to Louisville -- and it looks likely to stay with him at Western Kentucky, where he's committed to playing college basketball.

Controversies aside, it's easy to see why Bassey was a consensus top-10 recruit in the 2019 class before reclassifying and leaving high school a year early. With a 7-foot-2 wingspan and springy leaping ability, he's a threat at the rim on both sides of the floor. He gets out in transition well and has even shown the ability to lead a simple break after grabbing a defensive rebound. Getting stronger will be important moving forward as he continues to go up against bigger and better players, but he could find success as a two-way rim-running center this season, especially as a big fish in the relatively small pond of Conference USA.

Of course, that's assuming he does play next season -- and while there's not been any word that his eligibility will be threatened, it's fair to be cautious about it: Bassey already faced issues along those lines in high school. After averaging 20.2 points, 17.1 rebounds and 5.9 blocks per game in his freshman season, he was ruled ineligible for his sophomore season due to receiving improper financial support.

The next summer, Bassey and his legal guardian, Hennssy Auriantal, moved to Louisville. After a successful season at Aspire Basketball Academy, Bassey reclassified and committed to WKU. The second five-star recruit in as many seasons to join the Hilltoppers, Bassey hopes to be the first one to play. Last year, Mitchell Robinson was suspended indefinitely for breaking team rules before the season began. Robinson entered the draft after a season off and was selected by the Knicks early in the second round.

Auriantal, who has joined the Western Kentucky staff as an assistant coach, has ties to another Hilltopper that's experienced eligibility issues. Last season, forward Moustapha Diagne sat out the season's first 16 games as the NCAA investigated his amateur status, especially his connections to Auriantal. Diagne was eventually cleared and finished the season.

Whether or not Bassey plays this season, he certainly already has NBA potential and could very well go in the first round next year without playing a minute at WKU.

Having played for only a few years, there's a lot of room to grow. He cites Giannis Antetokounmpo as an inspiration and believes he's capable of playing every position. That's a bit of a stretch at this point, but he is a nice passer with basic dribbling ability and something like a jumpshot. It's highly unlikely he'll ever play full-time on the perimeter, but he already looks like he has the potential to supplement his more traditional big man offense with a more modern face-up game.

His low-post offense isn't quite there yet either, but that's not the same death sentence it was 10 years ago. And that could very well come with time anyway -- plus, playing soccer for most of his life probably gives him a basic grasp of footwork that will help him as he learns to play down low.

Already a first-round caliber big man, Bassey has a vision of himself as much more, a Swiss army knife of sorts. A season starring in a relatively low-pressure environment at Western Kentucky would give him a chance to explore just how realistic that vision is before he makes it to the league. A year out of the spotlight could mean falling to the second round.

There's plenty of room for Bassey to grow as a player. He already has some promising foundational skills in place. Where he goes from here is anybody's guess.

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