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Announced as possible future number 1 of the next NBA Draft, Congolese winger Jonathan Kuminga surprised his world last December by choosing to bypass the university (NCAA) box, to become professional in the NBA Development League, the G -League. Brilliant in the shortened season which is currently taking place in a sanitary bubble in Orlando, the native of Goma amazes, and shows the full extent of his talent.
Orlando, February 10. G-League Ignite game against Golden State Warriors satellite team Santa Cruz. First game action. On a ball stolen by Jonathan Kuminga, the Congolese winger does not need to be prayed for and accelerates to finish on a huge dunk on the opposing pivot.
The 18-year-old is not afraid of players who are on average six years older than him, and feels like a fish in water. ” On this kind of action, we realize that Jonathan is an exceptional prospect, who can already play at a professional level and bring something that is very rare at this age: immediate impact in his team “Said Brian Shaw, former teammate of Kobe Bryant at the Los Angeles Lakers, two-time NBA champion and current coach of the Ignites.
Football fan, but big enough for basketball
With an average of 16.4 points and seven rebounds per game since the start of the G-League season, the number 0 is asserting himself more and more as one of the best prospects in world basketball every day.
Born in Goma, Jonathan Kuminga grew up in a family where basketball was not really his favorite sport, but his passion for the orange ball gradually developed in him. ” I have always loved football, which was played by almost all of my family, but being taller than other children, I started basketball quite logically. Kuminga recalls.
One summer day in 2015, he showed up at one of the basketball camps organized by Bismack Biyombo, which brought together hundreds of young people from across the country. After a day, the slender winger shows the full extent of his talent, and the NBA pivot decides to take him under his wing. ” The first time I saw it I thought to myself “wow, this kid is too easy”, he feels the game like none of the young people who had come to my camps over the years. It was already a nugget, and I wanted to help him make his dreams come true Biyombo smiles. The current Charlotte Hornets player brought him to the United States at the age of 13, and Kuminga’s American adventure began.
The NBA Draft in the sights
The first few months are difficult. During the first three years in the United States, he changed schools three times, before landing at Patrick High School in New Jersey. The adaptation in this Catholic establishment is done very quickly, in the midst of his teammates, some of whom are from Mali and Benin. ” We had a very solid group, very united and the fact of sharing my daily life with other African players, who have gone through the same difficult journey as me – because the transition between Africa and the United States is complicated – helped me a lot to grow up “, Recalls the young hope, before adding” that exchanging, sharing, talking and supporting each other in good times as in bad times is the most important thing for development as a player, but also as a man ».
After thirty matches with his high school, the young Congolese is a hit: 30 points average, and actions that are all around social networks. American universities are snapping up, including Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky, the behemoths of the NCAA, the college championship. But Kuminga gives himself time to think, and the one announced as possible number 1 in the Draft will take everyone on the wrong foot, and sign professional, taking advantage of a new possible path to join the NBA.
The latter, in order to consolidate its position and attract younger and younger players, decides to give the country’s best prospects the opportunity to sign in their development league since this season, and brings together the best prospects for the within a team, the G-League Ignite. Kuminga signs for the season, and embarks on the professional bath, evolving against players with several years of experience at the highest level.
« The choice was tough, but I realized that going professional and putting both feet in this world was going to help me transition to the NBA more easily than if I had gone to NCAA. », He emphasizes. The Ignites surprise their world since the start of the Orlando bubble, and Kuminga panics the counters. ” Jonathan is the best 18-year-old I’ve played with in my life, and he’s ready to take the plunge for the NBA. He has it all: the physical, the mental and the playful Says his teammate Jarrett Jack, former mentor to superstar Stephen Curry.
Kuminga knows the spotlight is on him, but keeps a cool head, with just one goal in mind. “ I know everyone is talking about me, but my only goal is to go to the NBA next season and be in the best possible position. », He hammers. Announced as probable future number 1 of the Draft, Kuminga does not hide his ambition: ” I want to have a long career in the league and I want to make the Congolese people proud. If I can do it, it will also show my compatriots that anything is possible, and that would be my greatest pride. »