At the age of 14 years and 227 days, the centre from Mali made his ACB debut with Fuenlabrada against Real Madrid and lowered Ricky Rubio's youth record

The prodigy Bagayoko between the CBA and the NBA

PHOTO/ACB - Bassala Bagayoko, Urbas Fuenlabrada player

With crisis comes opportunity. Necessity sharpens ingenuity in the world of sport. Florentino Pérez demands more money to keep spending what he doesn't have. He invents a tournament to keep milking the football cow. In basketball things are not so dazzling. The ACB is surviving the drop in audiences of recent years and is weathering the COVID storm as best it can. Real Madrid and Barcelona don't have so many economic problems, but the rest of the teams suffer with empty stands. 


Fuenlabrada fights to stay in the ACB. Injuries and the coronavirus have meant that coach Josep María Reventós has had to put a 14-year-old 2.02m tall teenager on the court. Two points and two rebounds in 10 minutes made him go down in national basketball history. Bassala Bagayoko broke Ricky Rubio's record (14 years, 11 months and 28 days) and Luka Doncic's (16 years and two months). Two names that did not take long to make the leap to the NBA and remain among the elite of the best basketball in the world. 


Attentive to the statements of his coach after the game against Real Madrid. "We kept him for 10 minutes because he trained very well, he wasn't afraid. From now on we have to continue looking after him as the club is looking after him, that his coaches continue to treat him as they are treating him and go little by little with him". 

Reventós' words say it all. Bagayoko was not afraid. Bagayoko is being well looked after at his club. His first virtue makes him enjoy himself on the court and lose respect for rivals who are at a different sporting and economic level. The second point indicates that Fuenlabrada does not want Bassala to lose the north at the age of 14 and disengage from basketball. He shares a flat, studies in a high school near the Arroyo pavilion and has a tutor because, let's remember, at 14 years old life is yet to be discovered. 


Bagayoko arrived from Bamako (Mali) to Spain in 2018. He started playing for Santa Lucia Basket in the Canary Islands. Iberostar Tenerife invited him to play in the Spanish Children's Championship and the 2019 Minicopa. In the 19/20 season he travelled to Madrid to play for Baloncesto Alcalá. A year later he joined the Fuenlabrada youth team. The junior team and the EBA league team were too small for him, they are necessary for his training, but his body asks for ACB.

Bassala Bagayoko canterano del  club Urbas Fuenlabrada debuto en la ACB en un partido contra el Real Madrid PHOTO/ Departamento de Comunciación del Urbas Fuenlabrada/ Alba Pacheco.


The Malian's first experience will be to support Fuenlabrada in ACB. Reventós will have to evaluate if his game benefits the team to get more minutes. On the other side of the scale is the option of putting too much weight on his back, too much pressure and Bagayoko will be diluted.


Something is wrong with Mali basketball. Their national team was runner-up in the U19 World Cup in Greece which was played in 2019. They lost to the USA in the final 93-79. The African team managed to win the first and the last quarter, held the game well thanks to 17 points from Abdoul Karim Coulibaly who is already looking ahead to the NBA in college basketball at the University of Pittsburgh. 


Amadou Doumbia is the other big name in Spanish basketball. Another compatriot of Bassala Bagayoko who plays for Zentro Basket Madrid in the LEB Plata where he made his debut in 2019 at the age of 14. The purpose of the Madrid team is not to trade the player. They want to train him and that he makes the leap to another club. Real Madrid tried, but due to a contractual issue could not close his signing, although they do not lose track of him. 


African basketball prodigies are training in Madrid. Bassala Bagayoko and Amadou Doumbia are diamonds in the rough that their clubs must shape inside and out. Polishing the sporting details and watching over their adolescence so that they can make a living from basketball. The NBA is the target, of course. In Europe they do exhaustive monitoring of all the players who stand out in their clubs. There are coaches working for NBA franchises who monitor those who stand out for the dream of a future draft.