ABC and ABC Studios, which cast newcomer Blondy Baruti after looking at a hundreds of young actors for the lead in its NBA comedy pilot this season, are holding onto their find. Baruti has been signed into a talent holding deal with the network and the studio, which produced the NBA pilot and is still trying to land it a series order somewhere after coming close to one at ABC but ultimately missing the cut.

Baruti, a 6-foot-10 former basketball player out of Oklahoma played the lead opposite Skylar Astin in the untitled NBA buddy comedy pilot about Mo (Baruti), an NBA rookie who doesn’t speak English, and a translator (Astin) who doesn’t speak basketball.

The project, done with the cooperation of the NBA and the Golden State Warriors, marked the first professional acting gig for 24-year-old Baruti, who grew up in the Republic of Congo during years of unrest and atrocities before coming to the U.S. with family members eight years ago.

He played basketball for Mesa High in Arizona and University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and studied acting over the past few years but had no acting experience. Baruti, who does not play basketball at the moment, auditioned for the pilot out of Oklahoma.

The pilot was executive produced by writers Casey Johnson and David Windsor, Galavant creator Dan Fogelman, Mandalay Sports Media’s Peter Guber & Mike Tollin and Kapital Entertainment’s Aaron Kaplan.

Baruti is with Greenlight Management.