Sapakoff: The new Adjehi Baru aims for K.G.’s touch
Don’t expect Adjehi Baru to dash into the far corners of TD Arena and demand the basketball Monday night against Miami. Two seasons and three games into his basketball stint at the College of Charleston, the 6-9, 225-pound junior still hasn’t attempted a 3-point shot.
But watching the amiable big guy from the Ivory Coast was already entertaining, and now he’s added expanded range to a steadily improving game.
How Baru spent his summer vacation: Taking classes to work toward a degree in International Business, lots of time in the gym for routine post-move refinement and extended hours of outside shooting.
“Last year, I didn’t shoot a lot from in the outside,” Baru said. “This year, I will have more opportunities to shoot, and I just have to make those shots. I’m beyond the stage of thinking too much about my shot, and I think I’ll be really fine with it.”
Goal: Play more like his favorite NBA player, Kevin Garnett, a 6-11 native of Mauldin.
Cougars head coach Doug Wojcik likes the idea of pairing Baru with David Wishon, a 7-2 transfer from Tulsa. He is all aboard with Baru’s progress — with a few limitations.
“Coaching any player, the more I can expand their game, like the ability for (Baru) to step away from the basket and shoot it, I feel like I have to do that,” Wojcik said. “They have to see that I want those skills for them. Now what’s a good shot and what’s not a good shot in a pick-up game and in a real game, you earn those shots. But the more he can do that, the better team we have.”
The sample size is small so far this season; the Cougars are 1-2. Baru, averaging 9.0 points per game, remains primarily a post player trying to block shots, get rebounds and limit foul trouble.
Mix in freshman guards Canyon Barry (18 points per game) and Joe Chealey (12 ppg), plus Wishon, and the College of Charleston has a lot of new moving parts and evolving talent.
It might get worse before it gets better.
It looks very promising.
Baru’s numbers are encouraging.
His field goal percentage has improved each season: .483 as a freshman, .506 as a sophomore, .611 this season (including 4 for 4 in a season-opening loss at No. 3 Louisville).
Free throw percentage, too: .509 as a freshman, .647 as a sophomore, .833 this season (5 for 6).
‘He never gives up’
“(Baru) has really improved as a shooter,” junior point guard Anthony Stitt said. “That’s going to help us out in the long run, when he’s able to stretch the defense, especially when Wishon comes into the game to give us a bigger post presence when Adjehi is playing at the four position.”
Garnett, 37 and with the Brooklyn Nets, has never been a long-range threat. He has attempted more than 25 3-point shots over only seven of his 18-plus seasons in the NBA. But it’s the handy Garnett habit of stepping away from the basket, or making baskets in transition, that Baru admires.
“First of all, Kevin Garnett plays hard every day,” Baru said. “He’s always confident. He never gives up. And also, he can shoot from the outside. He has post moves and does all the little things, and that’s what has made him great.”
All the summer shooting emphasis doesn’t mean Baru is about to turn into a long-range bomber.
It does mean the College of Charleston has a more valuable player, and adds a potentially lucrative dimension to Baru’s NBA prospect profile.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.