Christian Koloko – the answer is in the center

Christian Koloko has been one of Cameroon’s top prospects since he first picked up a basketball at the age of 12.

The 7-footer arrived in the United States and played for Sierra Canyon High School alongside Amari Bailey (top five recruits in 2023), Scottie Pippen Jr., Kenyon Martin Jr. and other high school NBA contenders in 2018. spoke almost exclusively French, Koloko had a GPA of 3.8, and received offers from various Division 1 programs, including Arizona, where he had played for the past three years.

Koloko is 7 feet tall with a wingspan of 7 feet 5.25 inches. His figure changed rapidly from a very lean freshman to a well-built and physically imposing junior.

Koloko averaged 2.3 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, and 0.9 blocks per game in 8.3 minutes per game as a freshman. Last year as a junior, he averaged 12.6 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 2.8 blocks per game.

This speaks to how much he has improved.

Christian Koloko made a huge leap in his third year at Arizona, and it looks like he could be the perfect player to fill the bench spot at the center of the Orlando Magic.

Koloko is a late bloomer in many ways, as he started playing basketball much later than the typical Division 1 athlete. That’s good, even though he’s already 22 years old. It’s not as far down the development curve as most.

But he clearly showed a willingness to improve.

This improvement is most clearly represented by his free throw percentage, increasing from 35.0% at 20 free throws as a freshman to 73.5% at 136 free throws as a freshman.

Koloko acts as a classic tread for large wheels with easy mobility. Last season, he averaged 2.8 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. He also posted a 5.3 Defensive Box Plus-Minus which is an encouraging number to take defense to the next level.

He was also honored with the Pac-12 “Defensive Player of the Year” and “Most Improved Player” awards, anchoring Arizona’s monstrous 33–4 defense.

Koloko has shown a significant improvement in his pre-spin ability, demonstrating the ability to be a great defensive assistant who switches early to clear cutters that roll or widen. This allowed him to frequently erase college downtime.

Koloko perfectly suppresses passes at the exit – it presses on the rebound and delays the break. He also greatly improved the ability to “knock down” his smaller teammates when they switched to mismatch. These intricacies of protection were not peculiar to Koloko. But his ability has grown so fast that it seems that his defense limit is quite high.

Koloko’s attacking play is a bit limited at this stage.

He has good inside presence and will have a high field goal percentage – lots of dunks. He has grown in his ability to seal, drop step, and finish, which is encouraging for taking switches to the next level. He will also do well as a cross threat on a minor break and a bit of a roller.

For his continued growth in attack, it will be important to improve as a screen-setter. His display is a bit passive. His jump shot is slow and deliberate, but he has shown he can come out and knock some mid-range jumpers off if left open.

Basically, he doesn’t have an intermediate game or any kind of push that could play a huge role in projecting an attacking jump.

His hands come and go, sometimes demonstrating their reliability, sometimes letting Koloko down when receiving fast inside passes or crosses. The hope is that Koloko can be a useful hitter who can at least intimidate inconsistencies, run in transitions, and create shooting gravity.

Obviously, the Magic will be in the spotlight in the offseason. And that’s why the Magic is considering multiple centers for second-round picks.

With Mo Bamba Free Agency approaching, Orlando may need a backup center for the future. Koloko looks like such a guy.

It will provide most of the length and blocking of Bamba’s punches with a bit more intensity and feel on this end.

He’s not a Mo Bamba shooter. But he doesn’t need to play alongside Wendell Carter Jr. and one of Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero.

Koloko can also handle the court better than Bamba, which can add a whole new dimension to Orlando’s offense when he’s in the game.

Orlando is in a very good position to use his early second round picks – rather than selling them – on players like Koloko, who can provide a very cheap alternative to Bamba.

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