A few weeks ago, before an average Wednesday afternoon practice, the Largo boys’ basketball team sat outside the gym door waiting for the girls to finish their practice. While some of his teammates sat and stretched in a circle, beat boxing and banging out beats on their thighs as another teammate rapped, Abdulai Bundu towered over the gym door, face pressed against the glass, waiting to get in. It wasn’t that he was trying to escape his teammates’ on-the-spot composition — Bundu just wanted to get to work.
The 6-8 junior, who began playing basketball just four years ago, is one of the area’s most explosive big men, despite a lanky frame more chiseled than powerfully muscular. Not quite big enough to play center in college, and not used to handling the ball enough to play a swing position just yet at Largo, Bundu believes he’s got work ahead of him to add ball-handling and better jump shooting to his arsenal to become a standout college player. Coaches have told him to “do his thing” at the center or power forward position in high school, but also that his frame as it stands fits a mismatch-ready two-guard — a three-guard if he continues to grow.
“The thing that has to change is my ball-handling — that would have to be a little sharper. My shooting — pull-up — almost everything you need to know about being a three guard, everything has to change,” Bundu said. ” I have to get comfortable dribbling around the perimeter, I’d have to get comfortable with one-dribble pull-up, and shot fake, and that. Sometimes my coaches won’t allow me to post up, so that forces me to learn this outside game. They beat me to the block sometimes. So I just have to learn how to work on the outside.”
Bundu’s more than happy to make the move. When he first began playing basketball in eighth grade, coaches would tell him to catch the ball with his back to the basket and turn — “I wasn’t allowed to put the ball on the floor,” he explained. But Largo’s coaches slowly forced Bundu out to the elbow, then a bit further, then out to the three-point line. Now, he says, he’s comfortable enough with the ball in his hands to “go coast-to-coast every once in a while,” though he admits he’s “surprised at myself sometimes” when he does. it.
“My first time going coast-to-coast was my sophomore year,” Bundu recalled. “I got a rebound against Fairmont Heights. In my head, I was just like, ‘the guard’s head is down’. So I did a bust-out dribble, dribbled the court, took my two steps and dunked it. The whole place went crazy. I told myself, ‘I gotta learn how to do this more often.’
College coaches have taken note of Bundu’s evolving versatility, as he says he’s received letters from Cincinnati and Miami, and has been in contact with coaches from Temple and a few other Atlantic 10 schools. That interest will likely explode when Bundu hits the AAU circuit this summer, though he’s likely focused more on getting back in the gym tonight: he and his teammates have been shut out of practice all week thanks to school cancellations, but face off with 2A rival Gwynn Park in the 2A South region quarterfinals at 5:30 in Brandywine.
NUMBER CRUNCH: 3
The number of days in a row Maryland boys’ teams will have to play and win to become region champions and gain a berth in next week’s state semifinals. Inclement weather has compressed the boys’ schedule to a three-games-in-three days pace, while the girls’ region winners will have to play three games in four days.
— Because of the snow, Maryland playoffs have been thrown into a state of complete scheduling chaos and become a nightmare for area coaches.
— Wondering when your local team is actually going to play basketball? Here’s our complete list of postponements and cancellations.
— The No. 1 Riverdale Baptist girls took home a prestigious national title thanks to a Chloe Jackson buzzer beater. Read more here.
— Before what had better be the last ice of the winter melts, read about the Washington Pride girls’ hockey team, which has become a pipeline to elite college hockey.
— St. John’s guard Amari Carter, one of the area’s most highly recruited girls’ basketball talents, has narrowed her list of potential college choices to two.
— Here’s our updated Maryland playoff brackets, sure to be thrown into turmoil by a full slate of boys’ and girls’ games this evening.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Maryland playoffs are FINALLY back in action tonight with boys and girls region quarterfinals. So keep an eye on the AllMetSports Twitter feeds to keep tabs on what promises to be an unpredictable evening of exciting results.
PHOTOS OF THE DAY
In case you missed it, W.T. Woodson made a magical run to the Virginia boys’ 6A North title last week. Here’s the gallery from an emotional win for the Cavalier community:
VIDEO OF THE DAY
And just to get your mind off shoveling snow and back on basketball (where it should be), here’s a look at last week’s top plays from playoff action around the area: