Proof is within the Progress: Jonathan Kuminga’s Journey to the NBA Draft


It’s been a nomadic existence for Jonathan Kuminga since he got here to the USA from his native Congo 5 years in the past. Three excessive colleges in three states in three years, then, after reclassifying from the 2021 highschool class to 2020, a pandemic-shortened season within the NBA G League. Once we spoke to him in June, the night time earlier than the 2021 draft lottery, he was in Miami, the place he’s been getting ready for his future, ready to search out out the place he’ll land subsequent.
Wherever it’s, he’ll be prepared.
“To be actual, town don’t matter,” Kuminga says. “I simply need the most effective coach, the most effective crew, the most effective teammates which are going to assist me develop and permit me to play. That’s the place I wish to land.”
It is smart {that a} participant who’s moved round as a lot as Kuminga has doesn’t thoughts the uncertainty round his subsequent vacation spot. A willingness to relocate looking for higher competitors is a giant cause why he entered the summer season as a consensus top-five decide in each respected mock draft. He’s simply 18, however he’s already proven a dedication to enhancing his recreation that, mixed along with his uncooked expertise, have made him a coveted prospect. His ceiling is sky excessive and he has the boldness to match.
“I do know for positive there’s no one higher than me on this draft class,” he says.

Trying again on his junior season, Kuminga says, “I labored onerous in highschool to the purpose the place there actually wasn’t nothing left for me to show. That’s why I ended up going to the G League. I needed to be an expert, be taught the skilled recreation. It was a reasonably simple resolution.”
He began that journey final summer season, signing with the brand new developmental squad G League Ignite alongside fellow 2021 lottery lock Jalen Inexperienced. The impression of COVID-19 meant the squad didn’t truly play a recreation that counted till February, however Kuminga confirmed no rust and no concern. The 6-6, 210-pounder scored 19 factors in a team-high 33 minutes to guide Ignite to a debut 109-104 win over the Santa Cruz Warriors. “I used to be prepared immediately,” he says. “My first recreation, of all of the younger guys, I felt like I used to be as prepared as anyone.”
He largely maintained that stage, averaging 15.eight factors and seven.2 boards—each second on the crew—in a team-high 32.eight minutes per. He is aware of not all his numbers are the place he needs them—effectivity is a matter, as his taking pictures percentages, notably behind the arc and from the road, all present loads of room to enhance—however as an athlete, competitor and finisher, he confirmed his elite potential. “I really feel like I’m extra mature, like I grew lots, obtained lots smarter, like I do know what I’m able to doing and what I’m not,” he says. “I believe I confirmed that I’m able to taking part in on the highest stage.”

The main focus now could be on continued enchancment.
“My greatest energy is the work,” he says. “I watch lots of movie and I put in work each single day. If I get bored, I simply go to the health club.”
And Kuminga makes clear he doesn’t simply wish to get to the following stage—he needs to excel. He needs to be a kind of family names, the fellows who even a child like him rising up on the opposite facet of the world would learn about. Imagine it or not, Kuminga says that whereas he’d typically go browsing to YouTube at a close-by web cafe to observe highlights—“It was Kobe, typically Michael Jordan, LeBron”—he swears that he didn’t truly pay that a lot consideration to the NBA.
These days are over. Now, if he can match the expectations he’s already set for himself, the following technology of children from Congo and throughout Africa could have a brand new spotlight hero to emulate.

Ryan Jones is a Contributing Editor at SLAM. Observe him on Twitter at @thefarmerjones.
Photographs by way of Getty Photos.

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