As Flory Bidunga displayed his elite athleticism play after play at the Sneakers for Santa Shootout, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl couldn’t help but applaud.
Bidunga made chase-down blocks, thunderous dunks, and affected just about every play in the paint during Kokomo’s loss to Ben Davis. It’s that length, vertical, and skill that has college coaches enamored.
Those high-flying sorts of plays are what he loves most about basketball. And they’re his defining attributes as a player. Kokomo head coach John Peckinpaugh recalled a moment last season against Richmond when he did all of those things in the same play.
“He came over on a baseline drive, a kid tried to shoot a floater over him. And he didn’t just block it: he grabbed it out of the air, made a great outlet pass, beat everyone down the floor to catch a lob,” Peckinpaugh told The Daily Hoosier. “That’s the first time I realized, like, ‘Dang, this kid, he’s going to be able to play for some money someday, hopefully.'”
Peckinpaugh takes advantage of the athleticism through a defensive scheme forcing opponents to drive into the paint, where Bidunga can be at his best.
“You can control the game with him in the paint,” Peckinpaugh said, “especially on that end of the floor.”
Bidunga is ranked the No. 4 player in the country for the class of 2024 on 247Sports Composite. He’s the top player in Indiana, and the top center. He has 14 Division I offers, including Indiana, Auburn, Michigan State, and Kentucky, among others. He was in the crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for Indiana’s home game against North Carolina, and he enjoyed that experience.
“The atmosphere, the people. IU fans are crazy,” Bidunga told The Daily Hoosier. “That’s a good atmosphere. That was great.”
That wasn’t Bidunga’s first visit to IU, but that UNC game stuck out to him.
The Hoosiers have made an impression on the junior.
“I like the facility, the coaching style,” Bidunga said, “the way how they play, the coach.”
Bidunga is relatively new to the game. He started playing just four years ago, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He came over to Indiana ahead of his sophomore season, and Peckinpaugh said he was raw at that point. He had clear ability and potential, but a lot of adapting and improving to do. And he’s already done a lot of that.
It’s not easy to adjust to a new country and a different style of basketball — a game he’d only played for a few years at that point — but Peckinpaugh has seen Bidunga get a lot more comfortable.
“I think most kids would struggle with it. He’s adjusted great,” Peckinpaugh said. “He just keeps getting better. We’ve seen in the last few months, here. He’s become a really good passer out of the post, and that’s just going to continue to improve. He just keeps slowly adding pieces to his game.”
Bidunga had no idea he’d be this good at basketball when he began playing. He just tried it, liked it, and kept going.
Peckinpaugh said despite being newer to the game and the area, teammates and coaches alike take well to Bidunga. He added that Bidunga has adjusted well to his growing hype.
“The one thing I always talk to him about is, ‘Don’t lose what makes you special, and continue to do the things that have gotten you to this point. Try not to let all the attention and the media in your head where you think you need to be someone you’re not,'” Peckinpaugh said. “I think he’s done a pretty good job of staying grounded and still doing the things that made him a top-five player in the country.”
According to MaxPreps, Bidunga is averaging 21.4 points, 13.0 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game in 26.6 minutes per game to start his junior season at Kokomo.
Bidunga is No. 40 in blue below. The video is from the Dec. 3 game against Ben Davis.
(video credit – In the Gym Hoops)
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