Kats' Flory Bidunga wins Mr. Basketball

Apr. 23—INDIANAPOLIS — Kokomo basketball fans are used to seeing Flory Bidunga wear No. 40 as he dominates games with thunderous dunks and blocked shots.

But when Bidunga plays his final game inside Memorial Gym, he'll be wearing No. 1.

Bidunga received the coveted honor of Indiana Mr. Basketball during the Indy Star High School Sports Awards program Tuesday night at Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University. The Star sponsors the annual award, which goes to the top senior in the state.

As Mr. Basketball, Bidunga will wear the No. 1 jersey for the Indiana All-Stars in games against the Kentucky All-Stars on June 7 in Lexington, Kentucky, and June 8 in Indianapolis. Before that, the Indiana All-Stars will play in an exhibition game June 5 in Memorial Gym.

Bidunga was named on 198 of the ballots submitted by state coaches and media members. The 6-foot-9 center out-distanced Brownstown Central guard Jack Benter, who received 122 votes.

The other finalists were Franklin guard Micah Davis, Fishers forward Keenan Garner, Brebeuf Jesuit guard Evan Haywood and Ben Davis guard K.J. Windham.

Bidunga flashed his smile as he walked on stage and accepted the award.

"I was a little bit nervous in the beginning, but I'm excited. It's an honor for me to be here and be a part of this and obviously winning Mr. Basketball is a big accomplishment for me," he said backstage after the program.

This year, Bidunga led Kokomo to a 25-4 record with North Central Conference and Sectional 7 titles. He averaged 19.0 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.4 blocked shots and 3.2 assists per game. The Kansas Jayhawks signee shot 81.4% from the field.

For his career, Bidunga scored 1,609 points, grabbed 1,132 rebounds and shot 80.3% from the field (689 of 858). He provided plenty of highlights with 323 dunks and 402 blocked shots. Kokomo went 69-17 over his career with a Class 4A final four run in 2022 and a state runner-up finish in 2023.

"No one deserves Mr. Basketball more than him," Kokomo coach John Peckinpaugh said. "The work he's put in the last three years and the sacrifices he's made to get to where he's at today, it's quite the remarkable story and I'm super proud of him. He'll fulfill the honor to the most of his ability."

During Kokomo's 2022 and '23 tournament runs, Bidunga played against two Mr. Basketball winners — Westfield guard Braden Smith in a '22 regional final and Penn guard Markus Burton in a '23 semistate.

Bidunga came to Kokomo before the 2021-22 season as an international student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He became aware of the Mr. Basketball award following his dynamic debut season.

"When Braden Smith won it, I was clueless about it. I was reaching out, 'What's that award mean?' People were telling me how Mr. Basketball represents the state of Indiana," he said. "It really meant something to me. I wanted to work to be on that level and then try to get it, for sure."

Bidunga is Kokomo's third Mr. Basketball winner and first since Jimmy Rayl in 1959. The other was Tom Schwartz in 1945. The award debuted in 1939. Following a two-year break in 1943 and 1944 for World War II, it has been presented annually since 1945.

"It's a big accomplishment for the community of Kokomo," Bidunga said. "I'm just glad I did something for them because they did so much for me too."

Kokomo is the seventh school to have at least three Mr. Basketball winners. Anderson, Indianapolis North Central, Marion and Washington boast four Mr. Basketball winners apiece and Lafayette Jeff, Muncie Central and Kokomo follow with three.

Mr. Basketball is the latest in a string of big awards for Bidunga. Since the close of the high school season, he has played in the McDonald's All-American game in Houston and the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland. In addition, Gatorade named him its Indiana Player of the Year for the second straight year and MaxPreps did likewise.

The Indiana All-Stars will feature strong Kokomo flavor. In addition to Bidunga, fellow Kat standout Karson Rogers also is on the team and Peckinpaugh is the coach.

"It should be fun getting to coach those guys for a whole week," Peckinpaugh said. "It will be a great experience."

Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune's sports editor. He may be reached at or 765-454-8567.