He’s only been in the United States for eight months, but five-star center Adem Bona (“boo-nah”) has already solidified himself as one of the top frontcourt prospects in the rising senior class. Ranked as high as No. 5 overall in the 2022 player rankings by 247Sports, the 6-foot-10, 210-pound center is a tenacious rim protector and athlete with an endless motor and growing skills on the offensive end of the floor.
Originally born in Nigeria, Bona moved to Turkey at age 13 to begin his basketball career with Istanbul Basket, later earning a spot on Turkey’s national team in the 2019 FIBA U16 European Championship. He averaged 14.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game to help lead his country to a fifth place finish.
In September 2020, Bona officially made the move to the United States, suiting up for Prolific Prep in Napa, California in hopes of playing against top high school competition and earning a scholarship to play at the collegiate level. After a standout debut season on the Grind Session, the five-star center earned an invite to the 2021 Pangos All-American Camp in Las Vegas, an event featuring the nation’s top 120 prospects in high school basketball.
“It’s been great, I’ve been waiting to play against top players,” Bona told KSR of his experience at the prestigious event. “I’ve been playing against top players already in the Grind Session, one of the biggest leagues in the country for high school. It has been great for me, it’s a great experience for me. I think I’ve played well.”
Play well, he did, stacking up impressive performances in back-to-back days to open camp before outplaying No. 1 overall prospect Jalen Duren to close out the event – in front of 48 NBA team scouts, mind you – on Tuesday. He ultimately made the Top 30 Cream of the Crop roster as one of camp’s top standout performers.
“It’s my first time playing in front of scouts and a packed-out place,” Bona added. “I’m from Turkey and just moved here eight months ago, so I get great experience playing in front of a packed-out place like this.”
With his stock growing every time he steps on the floor, recruiting interest has blown up in recent months. At this point, he can’t even remember all of the schools reaching out to him on a regular basis.
“It has been going well. It has been so many top schools, a lot are prioritizing me,” Bona told KSR. “Creighton, Kentucky, USC, Missouri, Kansas, there’s so many. I can’t remember off the top of my head.”
Among the programs that have piqued his interest, one source at the event told KSR that Bona is a big fan of Kentucky and an offer would immediately put the Wildcats at the top of his list. Another added that an official visit is in the works for sometime later this summer.
When asked about UK specifically, though, the five-star center played it coy.
Who at Kentucky is reaching out?
“The coaches,” he said with a laugh.
And what’s the level of contact?
“They contact me as often as every other school,” he added, smiling ear to ear. “Every school contacts me the same amount.”
Not willing to tip his hand, makes sense. He did, however, let a key Kentucky recruiting catchphrase slip through the cracks when describing his own game. He’s ‘built different,’ as UK would describe it.
“I’m not going to say I’m different, but I do think I’m built a little bit different,” Bona told KSR. “I’m a big that runs fast, uses strength. I never give up. Guys like me (at my position), they can’t run, they don’t have the strength. I take advantage every possible way I can.”
Among the things he’s working on? Expanding his game with shooting and dribbling.
“I’ve been working on my shot, my shooting, and my dribbling. I’m trying to expand my game a little bit more,” Bona added. “I don’t want to just be a big guy that stays down (in the post), I want to work on the perimeter, work outside and inside.”
Bona added that while he’s not a college basketball aficionado and isn’t terribly familiar with the history of many schools, he associates the Kentucky basketball program with the NBA and went out of his way to say former UK star Bam Adebayo is one of his favorite players.
“To be honest, I don’t know a lot about every college,” he said. “But I’ve been getting to know about Kentucky, even when I was back in Turkey. Some good players from Kentucky were in the NBA. One of my favorite players played at Kentucky, Bam Adebayo. I know them by the name.”
Adebayo is actually a player Bona is modeling his game after, someone who started as a primary inside threat and has since expanded his game to become one of the most versatile bigs in the NBA.
“I’m working toward being a little bit more like Bam, trying to expand my game,” he said. “Bam started just like me down there (in the paint), and he’s expanded his game to be outside, so I’m trying to be like that.”
Should he end up signing with UK, Bona knows nothing will be given to him, nor would he want it that way. The 6-foot-10 center embraces the challenge.
“Anyone who goes to Kentucky will have to fight for their spot,” Bona told KSR. “It’s not going to be given to you, they’re not going to just offer a spot. I don’t need anything handed to me, I know I still have to fight for a spot with everything.”