Former Panther “Bam” Adebayo declares for NBA draft

Published 8:36 pm Wednesday, April 5, 2017

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Edrice “Bam” Adebayo spent three seasons as one of the most dominant forces in eastern North Carolina. He led Northside to the final four in his junior season before spending his senior campaign at High Point Christian Academy.

This past year, he took his raw skill and size to Kentucky to refine, grow and learn as part of one of the nation’s best programs in terms of grooming basketball players for the NBA.

Now, the Panther-turned Wildcat is testing the waters of professional basketball. Adebayo made an announcement Wednesday declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft. He opted not to sign with an agent, though, which leaves the door open for him to return to Kentucky.

“I’m weighing my options for what’s best for me and my mom,” Adebayo said. He nearly averaged a double-double in 38 games with the Wildcats. “It was best to just declare. She told me, ‘Do what’s right for you and don’t worry about the rest of it.’ … I haven’t hired an agent yet. I just feel like I’m just keeping my eyes open like I did before I committed. I’m keeping my eyes open.

“From where I come from, a lot of people don’t believe they can do it from where they’re from. I’ve got the chance to do something different. I give it all to God.”

Adebayo showed improvement in his year under Kentucky coach John Calipari and his staff. One of the areas in which he developed most was adjusting to the speed and physicality of high-level basketball.

“He’s someone who is going to play extremely hard. He’s someone who is extremely physical,” said an NBA scout who has been looking at Adebayo who preferred to remain anonymous. “It took him a while to get used to the physicality, really, in the opposite manner. Most kids struggle with the physicality. He, in a way, struggled with getting in foul trouble and not really getting in a rhythm.

“I think he adjusted to that. … He’s definitely someone that brings it all, plays with a lot of energy, plays hard, and you definitely appreciate that.”

One of Adebayo’s most alluring traits is his work ethic. Northside coach Mike Proctor praised that about him. Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee also lauded this characteristic, saying in January that Adebayo comes ready to work and learn every single day.

“I like his demeanor on the court,” the NBA scout said. “He plays with a real presence. He really cares. You can just tell, like everyone says, he’s the hardest worker on the team.”

One of his other top qualities is his character. Different NBA teams place varying levels of importance on it, but they all emphasize it.

“It’s everything,” the NBA scout said. “He’s got to be a good teammate. He’s got to work hard. He’s got to have the right priorities. We’ve got to know about his family, his upbringing, everything about him. We try and look at the full picture.”

Adebayo added, “Teams don’t want a headache. They want a guy that’s easygoing, easy to get along with and is good for the team.”

There’s no debating that Adebayo has the upside to be an impact player in the NBA. The 6-foot-10, 260-pound forward that Barbee once described as a “wrecking ball on the basketball floor” is still growing into his body.

There are aspects of his game that can improve, too. The scout said he has to find his niche on defense. Being able to shoot the ball and stretch the floor would benefit him, too. Adebayo knows that. He said he’s been training and resting his body a bit since Kentucky’s March 26 exit from the NCAA tournament.

Adebayo’s next focus is the NBA Combine, which begins on May 9.

The ceiling is high for Adebayo. Should he choose to follow through with turning professional, or decide to return to Kentucky for another year, his potential should only grow from here.