Wednesday, the 2020-21 Texas Tech basketball team got some great news when redshirt sophomore forward Joel Ntambwe returned to the program.
Maybe 2020 isn’t going to be all bad after all. Though the current global pandemic seems far from relenting, the Texas Tech basketball program got some great news on Wednesday when forward Joel Ntambwe returned to the team after reportedly weighing his professional options, specifically, the NBA G League. Though that development isn’t significant on the global scale, it is massive for Red Raider fans, and these days, we will take any positive news we can get.
While the rest of Chris Beard’s team has been working out together in Lubbock for several days now, the 6-foot-9 Ntambwe was in Miami training with his young brother, Jonathan Kuminga, who himself earlier this summer spurned the Red Raiders for the G League. But now he’s back with the program and that will be a huge boost to the 2020-21 season.
Keep in mind that Tech has to replace both of its top scorers from last year, Jahmi’us Ramsey and Davide Moretti. That duo combined for 28 points per game leaving a large hole to be filled.
Thankfully, filling it up is what Ntambwe does best on the basketball court. As a true freshman at UNLV in 2018-19, he averaged 11.8 points per game. To put that in perspective, that’s more than either Jarrett Culver or Zhaire Smith averaged in their first seasons as collegiate players.
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Ntambwe is a lanky forward who can stretch the floor with a mid-range jumper or blow by opposing defenders off the bounce if they try to crowd him. He will provide the type of offensive versatility and creativity that last season’s Red Raiders lacked at times, especially in the clutch.
Of course, Tech was in hopes that Ntambwe would have been able to help the 2019-20 team in that regard. After his head coach at UNLV, Marvin Menzies was fired, it was believed that Ntambwe had a solid case to be granted an immediate eligibility waiver. But for some reason, he was the only one of five UNLV transfers denied the opportunity to play last season by the NCAA.
Many believe the rub was that the people at UNLV were not supportive of his waiver request given the bad blood between the school and Beard. Remember, in 2016 Beard took the UNLV head coaching job but resigned less than a month later to take the same position in Lubbock. Since then, his success has only served to fuel the displeasure the people in Vegas have towards both he and the Texas Tech basketball program in general.
In his lone season with the Runnin’ Rebels, Ntambwe also grabbed 5.5 rebounds and came up with 0.5 steals per game. But it is on offense where he makes his greatest mark.
Two seasons ago, he shot 40.9% from the field and 38.6% from 3-point range. What’s more, he was a 75.2% free-throw shooter who got to the line 3.6 times per contest.
He scored in double digits 17 times that year, including five games of 20 or more points. That included a season-high 31 against conference foe Wyoming.
As if Texas Tech basketball fans needed another reason to be excited about the state of the program as we look towards Chris Beard’s fifth season in charge, we now have one. Hopefully, the return of Joel Ntambwe will be what puts a supremely-talented roster over the top. And hopefully, it is a sign that the final five months of 2020 will trend in a more positive direction for us all.