One and done: Panoam signs with North Dakota after year at JC

July 10, 2018

Bentiu Panoam basketball

Bentiu Panoam

If personal relationships drive college recruiting, then the camaraderie Anchorage’s Bentiu Panoam built with the coaches at the University of North Dakota basically chauffeured him to the NCAA D1 school.

They didn’t charm him as much as show love, loyalty and trust.

“North Dakota kept it real with me,” Panoam told me. “I talked to Coach Grabowski one day and the next day he flew out to see me. That surprised me. He was that serious in getting to know me and seeing me play in person.

“Then two weeks later they flew me up on a visit. I met with the rest of the coaching staff Coach Jones and Coach Craig and same with them; kept it upfront with me and it was all good vibes.”

Panoam, of Bartlett High fame, will transfer to North Dakota as it enters a new era in the Summit League, leaving the Big Sky Conference.

The 6-foot-1 guard will join a Fighting Hawks program after just one season at Northwest Kansas Tech of the National Junior College Athletic Association.

He averaged 10.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 30 games, playing his best basketball in the second half of the season when he notched double figures in 15 of the final 17 games.

“My coaches told me I need to get more aggressive. That gave me confidence, and from there my season kept going up and I finished strong,” Panoam said. “Having that level of trust with my coaches was huge.”

The Alaskan had his two highest scoring efforts of 20 and 25 points in the final two games of the season, thanks to a combined 7-for-12 shooting from 3-point land.

Panoam’s long-range shooting buoyed his second-half scoring surge as he shot .348 (16-for-46) in the first 13 games and .500 (33-for-6) in the final 17 games.

His shooting totals were .476/.462/.709 on the season.

“Hats off to my teammates and coaches this year for trusting me,” he said.

Panoam had another season of eligibility left at Northwest Kansas Tech. He could have stayed at the JC level and put up impressive numbers to maybe attract offers from big schools from more prominent power conferences.

But he believes he found a home at North Dakota.

“The program has so much history. Like I didn’t know Phil Jackson went to North Dakota back in the day,” Panoam said. “They still have their old gym with cement floors and another gym was from 1913. It was crazy that it’s still there.

“The history got me, but the relationship I built with the coaches and players over my visit was big time for me.”