Projected 1st-rounder Sylla signs with Oostende

Amar Sylla, ranked No. 23 in the ESPN 2020 mock draft, has signed a three-year contract with NBA out clauses with Belgian league champions BC Oostende, his agent Arturo Ortega told ESPN.

“I think this is the best step for me at this stage of my career,” Sylla told ESPN. “I’ve been told that Oostende’s coach, Dario Gjergja, is very highly regarded, and that this club has a strong reputation in Europe. This is an opportunity to get playing time in a good first division league in Europe, as well as the FIBA Champions league, something that is not possible in Spain.”

The 17-year old Sylla, who was born in Dakar, Senegal, has been developing in Spain with Real Madrid since 2016. He was recruited by the Euroleague powerhouse as a 14-year-old despite having only played a few weeks of organized basketball at SEED Academy in Thies.

He has since established himself as one of the top international prospects in his age category in a number of different settings, winning three straight Spanish junior championships at the Under-16 and Under-18 levels and the Euroleague’s Adidas Next Generation Tournament (ANGT) in May. He has represented his home country at the FIBA level the past two summers at the U18 FIBA Afrobasket Championship, and the U19 World Cup.

Sylla averaged 12.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 1.5 assists in just 21 minutes per game in the ANGT, shooting 61% from the field and 85% from the free throw line.

Sylla measured 6-foot-9 with a 7-3 wingspan and 9-1 standing reach at the NBA Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in Charlotte during All-Star weekend in February, putting himself on NBA radar screens with his ability to cover ground fluidly defensively and get off his feet exceptional quickness.

He shows promising touch on his jump shot, the ability to handle the ball in the open court, and can make highlight-reel caliber plays around the basket with his length and verticality. Scouts will want to see him add bulk to his lean frame, continue to polish his skill level in the half-court and improve his decision making on both ends of the floor.

Sylla will spend next season playing for a team that won the last eight championships in Belgium, and will compete in the pan-European FIBA Champions League against teams from Spain, Italy, France, Turkey and Israel. Gjergja says Sylla will be expected to play a significant role for the team, despite the fact that he has yet to turn 18 years old.

“We’re building a young team with a lot of talent and we’re very happy to sign one of the top prospects in Europe,” Gjegja said. “I hope to be able to help Amar reach the highest levels — the Euroleague or NBA. In Real Madrid he played as a center but I think with us he can become more versatile than that.

“One of the things we will try to do is to develop his shooting range as fast as possible. The plan is to open games with him in the starting lineup, so step by step he will gain confidence and become a better player. If we will be smart with him and he shows he is capable of working hard and coming with the right mentality every day, there is no doubt that we will be successful together. If we can help Amar make the next step and develop into a NBA player that would be fantastic for our club. All this young talent on our roster will bring more people to our gym, not just fans, but also NBA scouts and general managers.”

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