Even though he has barely spent two months in the United States, Charles Bassey is not just turning heads, but he’s also leaving people in awe of his talents.
The 6’10 Bassey was a marvel for all who watched him perform at the John Lucas II 2015 40/40 Combine Basketball Camp in Houston, Texas recently where he was selected as the most valuable camper. The question on everyone’s lip was “who is this kid and where is he from?” A coach and coordinator at the camp was so awestruck by Bassey’s array of skills for a kid his age he couldn’t help noticing similarities with another kid that came out of Akron, Ohio several years ago:
“I have never seen any kid of his age with such an amazing talent since LeBron James.”
Clark Francis, one of the best high school basketball scouts in the United States who saw Bassey perform at the John Lucas II Camp regards him as the best player out of San Antonio since Shaquille O’Neal was spotted at the Robert G. Cole High School.
“Bassey is the best prospect to come out of San Antonio, Texas since Shaquille O’Neal.” – Clark Francis
Both comparisons, though bearing a ton of weight, have some legitimacy to it. At just 14 years, Bassey has the height and post moves of a centre, the wet jump shot of a small forward, and the handles of a point guard.
The kid can do almost anything he wants with the ball. He is ambidextrous, finishing layups with either hands depending on how his defender plays him; he can throw down dunks, finish off on alley-oops, and has a quick jump to swat opponents’ shots. It was not a surprise when he emerged the Most Valuable Player at the Giants of Africa basketball camp organised by Toronto Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri just a few days before Bassey left Nigeria for St. Anthony’s Catholic School in San Antonio.
Since 1984 when Hakeem Olajuwon put Nigeria on the global basketball map after being drafted number one by the Houston Rockets, several other Nigerians have found their way to the NBA but none has had as much promise or impact as the Houston Rockets legend and Nigeria’s greatest basketball export to the world. But Bassey may be the tipping point to that drought as the next big basketball star out of Nigeria. Even the NBA noticed Bassey’s potential about a year ago while he was still 13 years and some months old. The kid nicknamed ‘Big Ticket’ (another comparison to future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett), earned an invitation to participate at the NBA’s inaugural Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in February 2015, though some forces in Nigerian basketball circles swapped his name for some other kid ensuring Bassey never got to participate at the event.
To picture Bassey’s sporadic growth physically and mentally, one should understand that the kid never played basketball prior to 2012 when Dele Awonuga, a youth basketball coach spotted him in Lagos and saw something no one else saw. At the time, Bassey was 12 years old and already 6’4 inches. For the next three years while playing at youth basketball tournaments and for his high school Avicenna College in Lagos, Bassey mesmerized anyone that saw him play.
While it is no surprise that a kid with an amazing talent as his has found his way into an environment that will guarantee improvement of his skills, being mentioned in the same breath and drawing comparisons to LeBron James is such a huge compliment. To cap that, anyone who understands how Kevin Garnett earned the nickname ‘Big Ticket’ surely knows Charles Bassey not only has a big ticket; he is a first class ticket holder too. The kid got game!
Image credits: thenewsontime.com; nba.com; Charles Bassey, Dele Awonuga (via facebook.com)