Bam Adebayo is gone.
Kentucky’s lovable big man reportedly hired an agent after initially leaving open the option to return when he declared for the draft two weeks ago. The hiring of the agent ends his amateur status and college eligibility, thus ending his time as a Kentucky Wildcat. Your hopes and prayers for a sophomore season went unanswered.
In my opinion the move was the right one, although others will say different. That’s a conversation we can have some other time. For now let’s just look back on Adebayo’s one season in Lexington as he looks ahead to the next phase of his basketball life.
Bam Adebayo made a special guest appearance on Mike & Mike in November of his senior season to announce his college decision.
That decision was, of course, to attend the University of Kentucky:
Adebayo chose Kentucky over North Carolina and Auburn, as well as interest and offers from many other schools.
The fifth-ranked player in his class, Adebayo cited John Calipari’s ability to get players to the next level as one of the main reasons he picked the Cats.
That Story About The Coffee Table
It wouldn’t be a tribute to Bam Adebayo without regurgitating the story of how he became Bam in the first place. As legend has it, Adebayo picked up the family coffee table while watching The Flintstones with his mother when he was only one year old. The nickname was born from there and the story was told way too many times throughout this past season.
The Dwight Howard Comparisons
Though he absolutely hated it, Adebayo was often compared to Dwight Howard when he first got to campus. However, we quickly learned to never, ever, ever compare him to Dwight Howard to his face, unless you had a death wish.
The good people over at KSTV had some preseason fun with Adebayo’s teammates and the uncanny resemblance:
I guess being compared to Dwight Howard isn’t a good thing these days, at least not as good as it was 10 years ago.
The Preseason Hype/Early NBA Projections
Adebayo was the fifth overall pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in CBSSports.com’s first NBA mock draft for the 2017 draft, while Chad Ford over at ESPN.com projected Adebayo would go 12th overall, still in the lottery.
“Bam Adebayo already has the NBA body and athleticism that teams crave in their power forwards,” Ford wrote last fall. “He’s an explosive athlete who plays with a great motor. He’s going to be a rebounding and shot-blocking machine for Kentucky.”
Meanwhile, college basketball media types (us included) threw around that “beast” word to describe what we expected to see out of the freshman.
John Calipari also called him a beast when he said, “We have to buy a couple more backboards down at Rupp, because we only have three and I’m afraid if he breaks one or breaks two … like, this kid, he’s a beast.”
Calipari even hinted at the possibility of Adebayo developing at the rate of Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Davis by the end of his first season.
The Underwhelming Start
It was obvious out of the gate that Adebayo would need some time to find his footing in college basketball. The look test he passed with flying colors over the summer didn’t translate to the college game right away. Sure, he bullied some of the inferior competition on Kentucky’s early schedule, but Adebayo struggled when he ran into players who would push back. Foul trouble was also an early criticism and focal point for the coaching staff.
Above all, Adebayo’s rebounding was the most underwhelming aspect of his game. Once predicted to be a double-double machine for the Wildcats, the big man had only three double-doubles in his first 27 games in college, and scoring was never the problem.
The Dunks (Bam Slams)
There was no shortage of dunks (or Bam Slams) from Adebayo in his one season at Kentucky. He set a new record for the Calipari era with 101 dunks on the year, surpassing Anthony Davis’ record of 92 dunks in the 2011-12 season.
Here is one of the those 101 dunks:
And here is another:
The Late Emergence
While the double-doubles were hard to come by through the first four months of the season, Adebayo had no problem getting them by the end. Once that switch flipped and the light came on in mid-SEC play, Adebayo closed the season with an average of 14.3 points and 10.2 rebounds in the nine games leading into the NCAA tournament. The late emergence led Matt Norlander to write a piece titled “Why Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament prospects rest on Bam Adebayo’s shoulders” and predict Adebayo would become a breakout star in March.
The NCAA Tournament
Adebayo went on to score 28 points and grab 28 rebounds in Kentucky’s first two games in the tournament. The second of those games, against Wichita State, came with some extra motivation thanks to Wichita’s Darral Willis Jr. saying he would shut Adebayo down.
Bam’s mom was pretty excited about Kentucky’s win and her son’s double-double response to Willis Jr.’s comment:
Bam Adebayo’s mother, Marilyn Blount, after UK’s victory over Wichita State. “He didn’t shut (Bam) down, did he?! Bam went at him!” pic.twitter.com/uRkR8B1vhD
– Tanner Hesterberg (@TannerWKYT) March 19, 2017
Back on April 5, Adebayo said goodbye to Big Blue Nation:
“This process we went through at Kentucky was a tough but a rewarding one,” Adebayo said. “It was everything I wanted when I decided to come to Kentucky. It taught me a lot. It taught me how to be a better man on and off the court. I have improved so much since the beginning of the season thanks to the hard work of the coaching staff. They helped me with every step of the process along the way and they never gave up on me.
“I want to thank my teammates. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to grow with. We were all like brothers. I also want to thank the fans for their support and everything they do for us. Their passion is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
“I feel I’m making the right step in declaring for the draft, but I want to be absolutely sure that I’m making the right decision for me and my mom. I’m looking forward to the process and I appreciate the support of the coaches, my teammates and the fans. No matter what happens, it’s been an unbelievable ride.”
An unbelievable ride indeed.