Ibou Badji is Finally Getting His Opportunity With Trail Blazers
The Senegalese big man has stood out in his Summer League debut after not playing his rookie season.
LAS VEGAS — If Scoot Henderson's debut is the headline of the Trail Blazers' 2023 Summer League showing, second billing could be Ibou Badji finally getting an opportunity to play.
Badji signed a two-way contract with the Blazers last fall and didn't play a minute of his rookie season, which was by design. The organization viewed the 7-foot-1 Senegalese center as a long-term developmental project, and they still do, re-signing him to another two-way last week. But he's started both of Portland's first two Summer League games and blocked three shots in their opening game against Houston.
"He didn't really get a lot of opportunity last year and dealt with some injuries," said Blazers assistant coach Jonah Herscu, who is serving as head coach during Summer League. "But being able to get out there and get those game minutes is really important for him, and he's taking advantage of it."
After sitting on the sidelines all year and working with the player-development staff, Badji is relishing the opportunity to finally get in a real game.
"I'm happy," Badji told me after one of the Blazers' Summer League practices. "It's been fun, being able to play in my first game."
Since getting to Portland, Badji has been working on his English with a tutor the Blazers hired. This was important not just for getting him comfortable living in a new country, but also for helping him learn the NBA game.
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