Jonathan Kuminga watched his dreams come true when the Golden State Warriors selected him as the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday, July 29 (Friday, July 30, Manila time).
He’s confident that sometime in the future, the same will be the case for his former Ignite teammate in the G League and Philippine basketball sensation, Kai Sotto.
“Kai for sure, he has a chance to be a great player,” Kuminga said in response to a question from Rappler during the draft pick’s Zoom media coverage after his name was called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
“At the end of the day Kai works hard, he has the size and ability to be an NBA player, and drive,” he added.
The 19-year-old Sotto, who stands at 7-foot-2 inches, carries the hope of many Filipinos that one day, a pure-blooded Pinoy will play in the NBA.
That dream came halfway to fruition when on Friday, Filipino-American basketball sensation Jalen Green was selected by the Houston Rockets as the second overall pick in the draft, joining reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson and former players Raymond Townsend and Ricardo Brown as the only players with Filipino heritage to be drafted to the NBA.
Filipino sports fans have poured complete support – especially on social media – for Green, who pundits peg could be one of the NBA’s best scorers.
Sotto, who together with Green and Kuminga trained for Ignite in the G League, is no longer with the NBA’s developmental program and has instead accepted an offer to play for the Adelaide 36ers in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL).
Whether or not his next chapter will lead him to the NBA will be determined by how much he develops over the next few years.
For Kuminga, who averaged 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and one steal a game with Ignite, going to a team as loaded as Golden State will improve his overall performance.
“As long as I grow around Steph Curry, Klay [Thompson], Draymond Green, I feel like my game is going to go from the bottom to the top in a couple months,” the 18-year-old Kuminga said.
“As I get along and get used to them people, because they’re going to always push me, they’re always going to put me in the right situation, and I feel like no matter wherever we end up, we’re ready to compete and win a championship.”
The last bit is important for Kuminga, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“At the end of the day, I just want to be remembered as that guy who brought a team to a championship, who won a championship,” Kuminga said.
“At the end of the day I want to be [in the] Hall of Fame, so I want to have a great career where everybody’s going to be talking about, ‘I want to model my game to Jonathan at some point.’”
Kuminga, who would have been the top prospect out of high school in 2021 had he not gone to Ignite early, always emphasized that the G League route will be helpful for future draft hopefuls such as himself.
“Just going to the G League, I feel like that’s the best route to go out there and just work hard every single day.”
In addition to Kuminga, the Warriors also drafted guard/forward Moses Moody from Arkansas with the 14th pick, adding the duo to last year’s selection James Wiseman as a major part of the Warriors’ young core. – Rappler.com