What can Kentucky expect from freshman Bam Adebayo?

November 7, 2016, 10:00 AM

— -- Editor's note: The 2016-2017 college basketball season will be the "Year of the Freshmen,"?featuring what could be the best class we've ever seen. Over the next two weeks, we will get familiar with the best of the best, examining who they are and where each of the top 10 prospects in the 2016 ESPN 100 came from.

He started as Edrice Adebayo, went by "Bam Bam" and is now known around college basketball as simply "Bam." Adebayo made a name for himself very early in his high school career and landed a North Carolina offer during his sophomore season. After continuing to dominate, he caught Kentucky coach John Calipari's eye, and Kentucky made a push. While Adebayo's friend and AAU teammate, Dennis Smith Jr., went to NC State, the big man headed to Lexington.

Exceptional rebounder

There's a case to be made that Adebayo was the best rebounder in the 2016 class. His motor never stopped running, and he steadily racked up double-digit rebounding games throughout his career. Adebayo has a nose for the ball and seems to take pride in making hustle plays.

"Guys who go and get the ball and see it come off the rim, it translates," one coach said. "Who's his NBA comparison? Blake Griffin looked like that. He was a rebounder first, everything in the paint first, imposing, strong, athletic. He's a high-level rebounder. Obviously, he won't be in college long, and thinking of the NBA, the [ Kenneth Farieds], the physical, imposing, high-motor guys make an impact. Rebounding translates. It doesn't matter who you play."

Some freshmen go through an adjustment period in college basketball after everything came easily at the high school level, but Adebayo likely won't need to change his game much.

"He's an effort, energy guy," one scout said. "He's so relentless. You don't see that a lot at the college level. The will, the physical nature, it's hard to contain."

Skill development

Former Kansas freshman? Cheick Diallo came into college with a similar reputation to Adebayo: High motor, excellent rebounder, relentless going for the ball. But Diallo struggled at Kansas, though some of that can be attributed to missing five games because of NCAA issues. We've seen some high-motor players in the past struggle at the college level, when opponents can match the size and strength.

Adebayo has worked on his game outside of rebounding, but is he advanced enough yet?

"I don't know how skilled he is," one scout said. "I think he's going to be good in spurts. But he won't be able to punk people like he did in high school."

Come SEC play, when games are played mostly in the half-court and Adebayo has to play a role in the offense, he could struggle.

"If teams play behind him, they're going to make him score with his left hand," one coach said. "They'll make him make post moves to score. What does he do then? Does he have a go-to move?"

Manufacturing production

Although the back-to-the-basket arsenal isn't quite there yet, some scouts and coaches don't think that's going to be much of an issue at the college level.

Moreover, Adebayo's existing skill set gives him a solid floor once he enters the NBA.

"He's the most NBA-ready guy," one coach said. "Many have bigger upside. But coming in and producing day one in a blue-collar way. Everything he does translates. [The way he] rebounds, runs, his mindset."

Given the way Kentucky will get out in transition, and given the competition in the SEC, it's conceivable that Adebayo could average close to a double-double without needing to do much in the post.

"When he's screening and diving and going downhill, that's how he's going to get his buckets," one scout said. "Offensive rebounds, that's how he's going to get his buckets. He'll have to get most of his stuff off effort plays. He'll be great in transition. He'll develop a couple things, a couple moves here and there. He should be fine. It's hard to look at him and say he's going to struggle in the college game. Just look at him."