Wendell Carter Jr. Was a Few Inches Taller Than Mo Bamba During Their Early High School Years

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO - The first time Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. played against one another was in Oct. 2013 at Baruch College in New York City at the Jim Couch Foundation annual showcase. They were high school freshmen at the time and just starting to make a name for themselves on a national scale.

Noticeable during the competition, which also featured some other now well-known hoopsters including Trevon Duval, who Carter later played with at Duke, and Cody Riley, currently a forward with the UCLA Bruins, was that Carter was a few inches taller than Bamba.

At the time, Carter had hit his growth spurt and was basically 6-foot-10 already, while Bamba was 6’7, still tall obviously but not the 7-footer that he is today.

Bamba reached 7 feet just a couple years ago, somewhere between his first and second seasons with the Orlando Magic. He was listed at 6’11 entering the NBA Draft in 2018, although it’s important to mention that he posted a 7’10 wingspan at the combine a month earlier, the longest ever recorded at that event. Carter, meanwhile, was pretty much always the tallest guy on the basketball court growing up.

During their respective high school journeys, Bamba and Carter talked about teaming up in college. The conversation began during their junior years – while Bamba was at Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire and Carter was at Pace Academy in Atlanta. The college they had in mind was the oldest university in the world and one of the most prestigious.

“We both flirted with the idea of us both going to Harvard for a little minute,” Carter said. “We flirted with it for about a month. But it didn’t last that long…It lived for a little minute but it died off. That was kind of our first interaction about playing together.”

Both visited Harvard’s campus around that time and seriously considered becoming the greatest high school basketball recruits to ever suit up for the Crimson. Ultimately, though, Bamba decided the University of Texas to play under Shaka Smart was the best option for him. Carter felt Duke University and the opportunity to play under Mike Krzyzewski and with some of the other marquee 2017 recruits, including Marvin Bagley III, Gary Trent Jr. and Duval, was the best route for him to take. Bamba, it’s worth noting, did consider Duke as well.

Even though they went in different directions for college, the two always felt they’d play well together should they ever end up on the same team. That was put to the test when the Magic acquired Carter from the Chicago Bulls a year ago.

Throughout this season, and especially over the last few weeks, they’ve gotten more comfortable playing off one another. That was on display during the Magic’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, when they became the first Orlando duo to have 20-10 performances in the same game since Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon did it on Dec. 30, 2018.

“I knew that I would be able to play with Wendell since high school,” said Bamba, who finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds. “The NBA is very different. There is more spacing involved. The physicality goes up. You kind of have to re-learn things, but it’s great to see us kind of work hand in hand and (know) who’s rolling, who’s popping, who’s doing this, who’s doing that. I think defensively we are doing a great job, too.”

Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley trusts both of them to make the right reads on offense and be in the right spots on defense. Since the All-Star break, Carter is averaging a team-best 18.5 points on 58.9 percent overall shooting and 38.5 percent 3-point shooting, while Bamba is averaging 13.6 points on 54.4 percent overall shooting and 42.9 percent 3-point shooting. Also in this time, the Magic have the league’s best defensive rating.

“Being able to find that chemistry as they come back into the fold, now you see what’s happening,” Mosley said recently about the developing chemistry between Bamba and Carter. “They are reading off each other a little more, understanding when Mo is going to pop and when Wendell is going to pop, or (when) ‘Dell is going to roll, Mo’s going to roll – them understanding and reading and playing off each other.”