Josaphat Bilau was one of the most difficult evaluations in the 2019 recruiting class for Rodger Bohn, who runs his own private scouting company in Ohio, where Bilau played this past season at SPIRE Academy.
Here’s the dilemma: you watch Bilau play and he moves, dribbles, passes, runs and shoots better than most prospects who are 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds, but almost every minute of his (sparse) playing time at SPIRE came in blowouts against backups.
His lack of meaningful playing time and exposure on the AAU circuit is the reason why no major recruiting service evaluated Bilau, but those flashes of brilliance are why high-major programs like Kansas, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Wake Forest and Pittsburgh all expressed interest in the 19-year-old from France.
On Sunday, Bilau announced his commitment to Wichita State, and Bohn thinks Gregg Marshall’s latest recruiting haul could prove to be a “diamond in the rough.”
“There’s a reason why all of those high-majors went and looked at him and it’s because everyone can see the talent,” Bohn said. “When this kid was engaged, he made an impact far beyond what his level of recruitment. He is a high, high-major prospect when he’s engaged. But the level of consistency just wasn’t there for him to be an elite prospect. I think it’s going to take some time with him.”
According to Bohn, it was a familiar refrain from college coaches who came to look at Bilau: they would come to a practice and he would look incredible, then they would stick around for a game and become hesitant when he hardly played. Also not helping his case is that Bilau never played on a high-level showcase team on the AAU circuit.
Bohn estimates that Bilau was the third player off the bench for SPIRE and he played sparingly for a team that was centered around LaMelo Ball, a five-star guard, Rocket Watts, a Michigan State commit, and Isaiah Jackson, a five-star forward.
“That’s why it’s so tough to give a proper evaluation of Bilau,” Bohn said. “You watch him in a workout and go, ‘Oh my God, this guy is something else.’ He’s got so much raw talent, but then you watch him in games and I don’t know if he ever scored more than 10 points in a game and when you did see him play, he was in games that didn’t matter. It’s so tough getting a firm evaluation of him.”
While Bilau may be an unknown commodity against top-tier competition, Bohn says it’s a “no-doubter” decision for WSU to take a prospect with this much potential.
Bohn envisions the ideal position for Bilau as a “new-age center,” although with WSU’s roster construction — Jaime Echenique, Asbjorn Midtgaard, Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler and Morris Udeze all play center — Bilau figures to play most of his minutes at power forward alongside one of those players. He would likely compete for minutes with two other first-year players: junior-college transfer Trey Wade and freshman DeAntoni Gordon.
“He can do a little bit of everything for you,” Bohn said. “I could see him as a trail big because he can shoot it decently well and also really pass the ball. He can also dribble better than most 6-10 guys, so he really gives you a number of options.
“Right now he’s probably stronger facing the basket than with his back to the basket. He can step out and hedge screens or you can even put him in switching situations and he can contain guys. He’s not going to be locking people up on the perimeter, but he’s mobile enough where he can switch out on a guard for a few dribbles and have no problem containing him.”
Bohn thinks the best bet for Bilau to reach his potential is for WSU to have patience. He’s only played basketball for five years and he’s still a raw prospect, so Bohn thinks it would be wise to treat Bilau as a high-upside investment rather than an instant-impact player to allow him time to develop into the player he could be.
But the player he is now is undeniably talented and could help WSU win this season. When Bilau was engaged, Bohn said he looked and played like a top-100 prospect — but those stretches were too infrequent.
If Bilau elevates himself to that level and Marshall is able to keep him there, then Bohn says there’s no doubt Bilau has the talent to be an all-conference player for the Shockers.
“He’s a blank piece of paper with all of the tools you need, so you can shape him, mold him, paint him whatever way you like because he’s so versatile,” Bohn said. “Right now he’s a Swiss army knife that can do a lot of things well, but nothing exceptionally well. Once he decides which specific blade to sharpen and be exceptionally good at, then he could special.
“It’s going to take the right coach to figure out how to maximize all of those immense talents that he has. He has all of the tools, so now it’s just about getting it all out of him.”