A nervous Canadian point guard Myck Kabongo made it to the NBA Summer League this week in spite of another totally bizarre NCAA ruling. That ruling had suspended him for his first 23 games with the Texas Longhorns last season for an impermissible $475 benefit, an amount he had to find a way to repay to a charity of his choice. It could have been worse; the NCAA had originally suspended Kabongo for the entire season, but relented on appeal. The end result was he only played in 11 games and ended up going undrafted in June.
Kabongo did manage to average14.6 points, 5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2 steals after his suspension and he was almost immediately picked up by the Miami HEAT for their 2013 Orlando Summer League roster.
Hoopsworld caught up with Kabongo in Orlando and asked him about the chance to play for the two-time defending champion’s summer league team and you can check out the Hoopsworld video here.
“It is a great opportunity for me,” Kabongo said. “I am just excited to be a part of this organization, just for this part, just to see what happens, just to be with my teammates and playing is all that I am worried about.
“Everyone would say it is a great opportunity, everyone that in that locker room that is wearing that jersey this summer. It is a great opportunity for all of us and just like them, they are two-time defending champs, you can’t ask for more. They do everything the first-class way. It is a great organization. Pat Riley and Coach Spoelstra, they do a great job at everything, so we are real excited.”
Kabongo is an unselfish pass-first point guard with a good basketball I.Q. and natural point guard instincts, however, in college he had a tendency to turn the ball over and that has been a focus for him in Orlando.
“I just (need to) take care of the basketball,” Kabongo said. “Just do my job and take care of the basketball and make the game easier for my teammates. I feel like I did that today. That is all they ask of me, to push the ball and change the tempo and get after it defensively.
“I didn’t have any turnovers (today). I did my job, just making the game as easy as possible for my teammates, just getting them in the right spots and being a vocal leader out there defensively and offensively, pushing the ball and changing the tempo of the game.”
Going undrafted after being considered a surefire second round draft pick might eat away at some prospects confidence. College players take a huge chance leaving college early if they don’t land a professional basketball contract right away. Aside from a touch of nerves and an uncharacteristic 3-8 from the free throw line, Kabongo looked good in his professional debut on Monday against Trey Burke and the Jazz.
“When the ball gets in the air, all of that doesn’t matter,” Kabongo said. “I am getting a chance to showcase what I can do and I am not wrapped up in that, it is all behind me. I am just looking forward to tomorrow now. I got to get in the gym tonight and work on my free throws that I usually make, but I was nervous a little bit. It is all behind (me) now, it is time to move forward and get better as a team.”
While Kabongo would love to be picked up by the HEAT for next season, he is in against some tough competition already under contract in Miami. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole had good seasons with the HEAT last year and minutes for a rookie point guard will be hard to justify. It is possible the HEAT decide to add a third point guard to the roster as insurance, however, if July 12 rolls around without a commitment, there are always the teams in the Las Vegas Summer League to approach and try to get another chance to show off one’s skills.
A lot of NBA fans in the Toronto area are hoping Miami passes and Kabongo gets a shot with the Raptors next week.
Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre since 2009. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.