Kuminga ready to help DR Congo basketball's rebuilding process
KINSHASA (Democratic Republic of Congo) - It's taken Jonathan Kuminga just three games to become DR Congo's leader in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers.
Even though DR Congo lost all three games in Monastir in August against Cameroon, South Sudan and Tunisia, Kuminga's numbers spoke for themselves.
"WE ARE TRYING TO REBUILD THIS TEAM. WE ARE TRYING TO PUT [DR] CONGO ON THE MAP. IT'S GOING TO TAKE A LITTLE TIME, BUT WE'LL GET THERE."
The 2.03m (6ft 8in) forward was only 19 at the time of his debut with the Leopards when he set a team-high of 17.7 points per game - surpassing Christian Lutete - the other DR Congo to average ten points or more per game in the African Qualifiers.
The Golden States Warriors player has also recorded his team's highest Efficiency rating 12.7 in the tournament so far, but in his own words: "We are trying to rebuild this team. We are trying to put [DR] Congo back on the map. it's going to take a little time, but we'll get there," he observed.
The first-ever NBA champion to take part in the World Cup African Qualifiers, Kuminga described his experience in Monastir as an eye-opening one and urged other NBA players to play FIBA basketball.
“Being an NBA player it's a pleasure," Kuminga said before elaborating the importance of other NBA players joining basketball programs on the continent of Africa. "Coming back and play for your own country it means a lot," he said.
Kuminga was one of the five current NBA players - alongside Gorgui Dieng (Senegal), Bruno Fernando (Angola), Ishmail Wainright (Uganda), Josh Okogie and Chimezie Metu (Nigeria) - to play in Window 4 of the World Cup African Qualifiers in August.
"I wanted to be the first [DR Congo] person (who actually plays in the NBA) to represent our country. Hopefully this helps other guys who play in the NBA to see the bigger picture in coming back and help the country. We are not asking for too much, we are just asking them to come out here, represent their country for a few days. That's not going to take a lot of your time.
"As long as we come back and help the team, we are going to have good results," the 20-year-old added.
Kuminga settled in the US when he was young, and had never played a competitive basketball game in Africa. And when the opportunity to represent his country showed up he wasted no time. After sitting out Window 3 of the World Cup African Qualifiers in July for personal reasons, Kuminga made sure to keep his promise of wearing the Leopards uniform.
"There is no regrets," he replied when asked about his outlook on his teams 0-3 record in Monastir.
He continued: "I am really proud of the group of guys that came and played for us. We fought until the end. It's going to take a lot of time (but) as long as we stay together, we pick up each other's brains, that's going really to help us to rebuild our team. There is no regrets. I am really happy with everybody who came together and helped to build this team."
With three games left in the African Qualifiers, DR Congo sit fifth in the six-team Group F with a 4-5 mark.