There were at least 10 Division I basketball programs that wanted Iba Camara. Several more from the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association hoped that the St. Paul’s senior would wait until spring to sign his letter of intent.
But for Camara, everything about his recruitment became clear when he visited New Hampshire earlier this month.
“What I really liked about it is when I met this kid who is from Nigeria,” Camara, a native of Senegal, said of Wildcats freshman forward Williams Gabriel. “He couldn’t speak a word of English. I talked to him and he told me how comfortable he was [at New Hampshire], how supportive they were to him. They really helped him get better in class. I think that’s a good thing.”
Camara, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound power forward, was convinced that New Hampshire would provide a similarly positive atmosphere for him. He signed with the Wildcats this week.
“Oh man, it’s just like a relief,” Camara said. “I’m just kind of happy to not worry about a lot of stuff. It’s just relaxing and real exciting.”
Camara, who also considered offers from Albany, Central Connecticut State, Fairleigh Dickinson, Jacksonville, Longwood, Marshall, NJIT, St. Francis (Pa.) and UMBC, came to the United States just three years ago. He was discovered at a camp run by former NBA player and current Coastal Carolina assistant coach Mamadou N'Diaye, a fellow Senegal native. Thanks to that connection, Camara landed at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Fla., for his sophomore year of high school.
In Florida, Camara got acclimated to life in the United States and showed enough potential on the court to receive some recruiting attention. But after a somewhat disappointing year for Farragut in Camara’s junior season, he decided to switch schools for his senior year.
A Farragut alum and Baltimore businessman eventually connected Camara to St. Paul’s coach Seth Goldberg, who happily added the developing post player to his roster. Though Camara hasn’t played a game for the Crusaders yet, Goldberg is impressed by what he’s seen.
“He’s getting better every day,” Goldberg said. “He’s got a tremendous work ethic, he’s gotten bigger, he’s definitely gotten better skill-wise, and just overall his confidence level [has improved]. We’ve been very, very pleased with how he’s developed in such a short period of time. It’s actually pretty neat for him. He’s become a leader in such a short period of time because of how hard he works.”
Goldberg said college coaches were impressed by Camara’s motor, his size and his character.
“A kid his size who plays as hard as he plays, it’s almost an unusual thing,” the coach said. “The biggest strength, if you ask me right now from the last time I watched him play, was how hard he played. His touch around the rim has gotten better, his shots are getting better every day. He’s so close in so many areas. The biggest strength right now is probably his feet and his hands are tremendous for a kid his size.”
Camara, meanwhile, is thrilled with his decision to move to Baltimore. He loves being challenged at St. Paul’s, academically and athletically. And he’s confident that his senior year will prepare him well for New Hampshire.
“I am so excited for college life,” Camara said. “I’m so excited to go play. I think I’m going to have an opportunity to play right away. I think that’s a big thing, to get an education. I’m looking forward to playing pro, maybe in the NBA or overseas.”
twitter.com/mattbrackenCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun