Florent (Flo) Thamba was part of the Baylor University Bears team that beat Gonzaga University 86-70 in the final of the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s (NCAA) Division 1 Basketball national championship final last week.
Flo spent his first three years of high school at Jeppe before being spotted by scouts for the US National Basketball Association (NBA) on one of their international talent search programmes and given a scholarship to attend Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Virginia. From there he was recruited by Baylor, which is in Waco, Texas and, in his third year there, he has broken through to their starting lineup. In the 2020/21 season he averaged 3.6 points and 4 rebounds per game.
Gonzaga University of Spokane Washington came into the final on a 31-game unbeaten streak and were favourites to win the title.
The NCAA division 1 competition involves 350 teams split into 32 conferences, with the winners going into a playoff tournament. All the top universities enter, so for Baylor to win the title is a very big deal.
Flo, who is 2,08m tall (6 feet 11) and weighs 111kg is being touted for the NBA draft – the process in which College players are allocated to the professional NBA clubs.
He is on his way to becoming the first Jeppe old boy to make it into one of the most famous sporting leagues in the world.