Myck Kabongo is a traveling man. The point guard has went from Toronto, to Jersey, to Vegas, to Austin, TX, over the last six years in his basketball career. He has gotten better every year, but it was one other stop (Cleveland) that altered his path.
Last May, Kabongo was prepping for his sophomore season at Texas and came to visit former high school/AAU teammate Tristan Thompson in Cleveland. While in C-Town, he got a workout in with trainer Jerry Powell. The result was a 23-game suspension from the NCAA, leaving him with a truncated 11-game sophomore campaign. Still, Kabongo thinks it was for the best.
“During the suspension, I practiced every day. I would work with Coach Springman and Coach Lanier to get shots up and extra cardio before/after practice,” he told SLAMonline. “It’s not like I was just sitting on the couch watching movies all day. Well, I was still doing that, but I was also getting in early and putting in the extra work to make sure that I could play at a high level when I got back.”
When Kabongo made his return on February 13, the Longhorns already seemed destined not to make the Dance. They were rebuilding with their core of underclassmen, but the personal struggle with the NCAA only made their star lead guard stronger. He was more vocal as a leader, posted career high averages of 15 points, 5.5 dimes and 5 boards a game. He even dropped 31, 8 and 6 in a W over Oklahoma. Still the team struggled, finishing 16-18 and landing in the CBI. Kabongo decided it was best to take his talents to the League and that brings us right back where this NCAA fiasco started: Cleveland.
Training with Powell and Peter Patton, Myck has been putting in absurd hours in the gym. We caught up with him at Cleveland State in the heart of downtown going through two marathon workouts that each required a different trainer. In the morning, Kabongo spends nearly two hours working on his J. In the evening, it’s two hours on his handle.
Things started off with Kabongo doing a lot of form work on his shot. Shooting right around 30 percent from the college three-point line, it’s the area of his game most often criticized. It’s not that he can’t shoot but more so a matter of him fine-tuning his shot and getting out a few kinks. Throughout the workout, there were highs and lows with his shot. Range wasn’t an issue, seen by the times where the 6-3 guard hit flurries of jumpers in a row. Still, he openly admits that his J is one of his primary focuses leading up to the Draft.
“I’d say that my conditioning and fine-tuning my jumpshot are the two main things,” he said when asked what he was looking to improve. “I’m just trying to change it up, get the hitch out, and get it a little bit quicker.”
Not the type of guy who is going to blow you away in drills, Kabongo is a gamer. His change of pace and end-to-end quickness with the rock is unmatched by most guards in this Draft. He’s improved as a playmaker and leader. Factor in the intangibles and you see why so many teams are high on Kabongo.
“You’re getting a big point guard who plays with great poise and can change paces,” Kabongo pitched about this game. “Whether I’m coming off of the bench or starting for a team, I’m going to do whatever the coach needs me to do. You’re never going to ask for effort and I’m always going to bring energy every single day.”
We have to echo his sentiments on the effort side after chilling with him in Cleveland. Despite being the most highly touted player in the group, he went harder than anyone and was vocal picking the other guys up. You could see the growth in him as both a man and as a leader. You could see the evolution from talented youngster in the Regent Park projects to well-spoken young man ready to battle in the League. The drive that Kabongo owns isn’t something he feels is unique to just himself—it’s a staple of all Canadian players bound for the League.
“I’m just going to continue working. That’s what we pride ourselves on,” he said of the Canadian basketball mindset. “We get better every year and are never really satisfied. We are never stagnant with our progress. All we do is try to work hard, be good role models, and improve every year in every aspect of the game.”