#PeopleOfTCC: Bamba Jaye

Bamba Jaye, a 6-foot-8-inch student athlete, is a native of Dakar, Senegal and center for Tallahassee Community College Men’s Basketball. Jaye spurned offers from professional teams in Spain, France, Germany and Qatar in pursuit of his education, before arriving at TCC.

De’angello Bruster, Tremain Lawrence and Bamba Jaye practicing at QEA. Photo courtesy of Bamba Jaye.

Africa has sent a large number of talented prospects to the National Basketball Association, and it remains one of the most used pipelines to find basketball talent to this day. Present day NBA players such as Serge Ibaka, Luol Deng, and Bismack Biyombo all hail from Africa. NBA Hall-of-Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo are also African.

Jaye’s dream is to follow in their footsteps and one day play in the NBA. Originally, he focused on soccer, but his size led him to basketball.

“I was playing soccer in the street when I was walking home by Mouhamed Sene who ran what we called Dieda Academy,” Jaye said. “He said you’re kinda tall, come join my academy to play basketball. I said, ‘why not?’”

Sene visited with Jaye’s parents, and they agreed to allow him to join the academy to further his education and basketball skills. Jaye was only 14 years old.

Despite interest from professional teams, Jaye’s mother helped him stay focused on his education, stating that he needed to get his education first.

Bamba Jaye came to the United States during his prep career while earning a scholarship to TCC. Photo courtesy of TCC athletics.

“She said you’re going to go to those places and only focus on basketball,” Jaye said. “I think basketball is fun, but having your education is the main important thing.”

Jaye is primarily focused on achieving academic success, noting that his education cannot be taken from him.

“I need to have my degree before I’m going to do anything,” Jaye said. “If you break your arm or leg and can’t go on the court, you’re done. You gotta have something in your pocket that people can’t take away from you, which is your degree.”

Jaye’s desire to receive an education led him to the United States, where he signed a scholarship to Quality Education Academy. QEA is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and has helped send a number of foreign players to the college ranks.

After a successful stint at QEA, Jaye signed with Gillette College in Wyoming. Unfortunately, he missed his freshman season due to a broken foot and decided to transfer to continue his basketball and academic career at TCC.  According to current TCC Head Coach Mark White, this was partly due to his relationship with former TCC Assistant Coach Phillipe Lilavois.

“Phillipe went up and saw him a few times in North Carolina and really liked him a lot. Not only as a player, but as a person too,” White said. “We were fortunate to get him signed here.”

Unfortunately, Jaye suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear during preseason practices and has been unable to play this season for the Eagles, who have amassed a 24-6 record during the regular season.

Even though he has been unable to contribute on the court, Head Coach White had nothing but praise for the young center.

“There’s not a harder worker than him,” White said. “It’s been nonstop working and rehabbing. And to show how hard he works, he’s almost cleared to come back and start practicing. To come back from an ACL injury this soon is a true testament to him, his character and how hard he works.”

Despite the injury, Jaye has managed to stay positive throughout his rehab as he looks ahead to next season and continuing his education.

“It was really sad, but you gotta trust the process and know everything happens for a reason. If God does something, that’s for a reason,” Jaye said. “I’m just gonna focus on rehabbing and school and just get ready for the next season.”