Looks Like University Of Illinois - Samba Kane
I can sometimes get lost in research for a post like this. For Samba Kane, well, I can tell you that I now know everything there is to know about Flying Star Academy in Senegal and how they send players to the United States. Samba Kane followed that path, and now he'll be the next big man in Champaign.
I often do comps for posts like this, and for Kane, I'm going to do a cross-sport comp: Blake Hayes. The path Blake Hayes followed to become the punter in Champaign is similar to the path Kane followed to be the power forward/center in Champaign.
For Hayes, it was Pro Kick Australia. A few coaches and trainers in Australia realized that they have kids who have been training to kick an oblong ball (for Australian Rules Football, or "Footy" as they call it) since they were infants. And if you understand that motion to kick an oblong ball high in the air, you could probably use that skill to get a free education in the United States. So they set up a program, started connecting kids with Division I scholarships, and now a third of the punters in FBS football are Australian (including Blake Hayes).
For Kane, it was Flying Star Academy in Senegal. Ibrahima N'Diaye, the brother of Mamadou N'Diaye (Auburn, went on to play in the NBA), started Flying Star Academy to get kids in Senegal involved in organized basketball. And eventually, that led to a similar thought: many of these kids could get a free education in the United States with these basketball skills. Here's a snippet from this article about Flying Star Academy:
N'Diaye's understanding of the relationship between basketball and academics is underscored by his personal experience. His brother Mamadou parlayed his basketball talent into a full scholarship at Auburn and upon graduation, he became the first Senegalese native ever drafted by an NBA team. Mamadou's legacy looms large over Flying Star. "I saw [it] in my own family," N'Diaye said. "Mamadou, he was helped by his coach, who offered him a scholarship and helped him go to school in the states. I saw how basketball helped Mamadou get [that] scholarship, so I use that to try and help kids find scholarships."
N'Diaye understands how complicated the journey from Flying Star to the U.S. can be. "Sometimes you take a chance, you give an opportunity to a kid, but when they get [to the United States], you don't know what will come from that...fortunately, most of the kids who get there are doing really, really well in school."
There have been a few college basketball names you might recognize from Flying Star. Remember the Elite Eight game in the NIT last year against UCF? Tacko Fall, UCF's 7'-6" center? He came through Flying Star.
And many of those players also came through Florida Prep. Kane's first year in the United States was spent at Regis Jesuit High School in Denver but in the summer he transferred to Florida Prep (where many other Flying Star alums had attended) and reclassified to the Class of 2018 (he had originally been a 2019 recruit).
Florida Prep has had success with players from Flying Star. Cheikh Mbacke Diong was a freshman at UNLV playing about 10 minutes per game this season. Lahat Thioune was a senior this year at Florida Prep and he's verballed to Utah. And Samba Kane reclassified to 2018 and has now signed with Illinois.
Which means that Samba Kane is very raw. Flying Star is an after school program to teach the game of basketball in Senegal, but Kane's first real competition came in 2016 in Colorado. So he's had two years of high school basketball and one summer of AAU to play against competition. Any player with that little experience playing high-level, competitive basketball is going to have a steep learning curve.
But, on film, he has the size and agility needed to play at this level. Raw, probably raw, and also a little raw, but "6'-11" and athletic" is 75% of the battle. Now it's up to the coaches to teach him the game. He has the height, length, and athleticism to be the shot blocker we desperately need. Now the coaches need to get him there.
Ideally he'd be a redshirt. He's so raw that I'm not sure he'd be ready for a non-conference game against Longwood, let alone Michigan State. Give him a year to learn the system (and learn college basketball). But, with Leron thinking about leaving, it might be all hands on deck next season.
Tom Cruises - I think this is a solid spring find. His only other high major offer was Rutgers, but I think that's more of a "high major schools don't have time to take on a project and want someone more polished" kind of thing. Similar to Blake Hayes - who had to watch film with Coach Ligashesky last summer just to learn how college football works - there's likely a big learning curve for Kane given he doesn't have 5-8-12 years of organized basketball.
But he is nearly seven foot tall. And he can run and jump. And he might be a project that pays off big in the future. The pickings were slim, but we found the exact kind of athlete we were looking for this spring.
Samba Kane - Three Tom Cruises