The “No Days Off” theme has been ingrained in Joel Ntambwe’s brain this off-season. The versatile 6-foot-8 guard/forward may be taking time off from the recruitment process.
Yet his commitment to becoming a dieseled-up threat and developing a potent mid-range game is of highest-order. It’s an everyday process for the underrated class of 2018 prospect, who has opted not to return to Forest Trail Academy (N.C.) for his senior season. Ntambwe, who is from Africa and speaks several languages, will pick a new hardwood home within the next month or two.
“Right now I’m just chilling and working out and trying to get my game better,” Ntambwe said.
“I’m trying to get my weight up and get to 220 pounds. I’m developing a consistent jump shot. Because you know, I want to go to college and be established right away. I don’t want to be a five minutes a game guy as a freshman. That’s not in the plan.”
Ntambwe, who has entertained the lofty dream of playing in the NBA since he left Africa for the United States, remains wide open. The laid-back, soft spoken Ntambwe anticipates arriving at a decision in December of 2017.
A slew of high-majors have jumped into the mix and inquired about the intriguing point forward. Since electing to remain in the class of 2018, higher profile programs have become involved.
Offers from Providence, Florida State, Wichita State, and Wake Forest, among a bevy of others, are on the table. N.C. State, which introduced Kevin Keatts as its new head coach in March, has expressed interest but has not yet offered. Kansas and Cal have also been in discussions with Ntambwe.
The key attribute that differentiates Ntambwe is his passing ability.
Ed Cooley, among other coaches, have lauded his IQ and ability to see the floor for a 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward. While playing a post grad schedule at Forest Trails Academy, he was more adept at putting the ball on the deck and attacking the rim.
“You feel the strength in how you finish when you get stronger,” he said. “I realized coming into the year I was thin. I needed to get stronger and get into the weight room so I could feel the difference and get to the rim easier.”
Providence was the first to offer and has been consistent from the very start, according to Ntambwe’s legal guardian, Dave Caputo.
“The reason I like coach Cooley a lot, as I said before, is because he’s not just a basketball guy,” Ntambwe said. “He’s more than that to his players. He cares about Joel as a person and not just on the court.”
Despite speaking glowingly of Cooley, Ntambwe missed his scheduled visit. There were plans to tour the campus and meet with the entire coaching staff.
Ntambwe never showed. He’s said it was a simple mishap and it was nothing personal, but he’s yet to anoint the Friars as a “leader” or “favorite” in his recruitment.
“Once I have all my offers together, then I will look through them and decide which is the bestfit for me,” Ntambwe said.
“I’m playing with Team Loaded right now in AAU and I will see where that takes me with recruiting, but the goal is to help the team win above all. It’s high level competition and a lot of good dudes are on my squad.”
Ntambwe’s multi-layered presence, notably the fact that he can guard multiple positions and rebound exceptionally well, has made him comparable to former Friar Geoff McDermott.
Like McDermott, a highly-touted recruit at quarterback out of New Rochelle (N.Y.) High before turning the rudder over fully to hoops, Ntambwe is known for bullying smaller defenders to the rim.
“The United States made sense to me because it was the best possibility for me to make basketball my life and my future,” said Ntambwe.
“Really, the opportunity to play college basketball at the highest level is what I need. It is my aspiration. Playing at a high level and then hopefully, when it’s all said and done putting on that fitted team cap and shaking hands with the NBA commissioner in late June.”