La Bamba

Tiegbe Bamba, Portland State’s 6-foot 6-inch, 205 pound senior forward, has helped the Vikings basketball team get into an early season stride. From an opening night takedown of the Trojans in Los Angeles to an overtime thriller at home, Bamba has shown his impressive playing ability.

Born in Sarcalles, France, Bamba came a long way before becoming the Vikings’ breakout player of this early season. He originally moved to Texas and began playing basketball at Snow Junior College in 2011. Not only was the adjustment to collegiate basketball in America jarring, but upon starting at the school, Bamba was unable to speak English.

He made quick work of his time at Snow, averaging 11.5 points and seven rebounds a game. After a coaching change, Bamba decided to take his talents to Midland Junior College and immediately stepped in while upping his rebound average to eight a game.

Things looked to be rolling as Bamba was a year and a half into his college education and rapidly picking up English fluency while becoming a force on the court, but things were about to take an unfortunate turn.

Nineteen games into his sophomore season Bamba suffered a left Achilles injury that brought his year of basketball to a grinding halt. The healing process proved long, and when Bamba signed on to play for the Vikings he was still in need of a lengthy rest to get back to full strength. Bamba’s junior season was spent rehabilitating and building chemistry with his new teammates as the Vikings went just above .500.

Coach Tyler Geving knew that his team was going to be mightily improved once Bamba was ready to hit the floor, and his production this season has shown the coach was right. His early season performances have also proved that Bamba has retained his aggressive nature on the court and can still hold his own after his difficult injury.

In the season opener on the road, where PSU has struggled in the past, at University of Southern California, Bamba was able to act as an offensive powerhouse. He led the Vikings in both points and minutes played while shooting a scorching 73 percent from the field (8–11). Though the team’s field goal percentage was low (39 percent), Bamba defied the slump and hit all of his shots from downtown. His heroics didn’t end there, as he was dominant on both ends as he lead the team with six boards and racked up a team leading four steals, four times the amount the Trojans could muster.

The next two games at home saw Bamba take less shots, but his importance to the team never wavered. Against Willamette, Bamba only took four shots but made 50 percent of them and did a little of everything to help the Viks secure a dominating 84–63 win. His line ran six points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists, while he was wherever Coach Geving needed him.

Bamba had a slow start in PSU’s third game against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he was slowed by foul trouble. Three early fouls, one a technical, forced Bamba onto the bench and lead to him logging the least minutes of any Vikings starter.

The forward from France had his tough day continue as the game headed to overtime tied at 81. While Bamba only had two points and four rebounds, he was able to come up huge for his team when he was fouled with under a minute to play. He hit one of the free throws and grabbed the game’s final rebound on a missed three by SIUE, allowing the Vikings to run out the clock and seal the W.

To help push the team to a 4–0 start, Bamba was able to again lead the team in scoring against Cal State Northridge. Shooting 70 percent on his way to 18 points and eight rebounds while playing all but one minute of the game, he surely proved he was who Geving was leaning on.

Bamba has returned ready for this season and shown the capability of utilizing his multidimensional talents to help the team win. Whether it’s being the leading scorer, pestering the other team into turnovers or securing a game clinching win with a rebound, Bamba is all over the court. With him healthy for the entire season, it’s hard to predict the ceiling for a determined PSU team.