By JOSH NEWMAN
Special to ZAGSBLOG
No one ever questioned the talent the 6-foot-3, 180-pound native of Toronto, Ontario had, but some felt he could have used some more seasoning in Austin. That, and there is the small matter of Kabongo serving a 23-game suspension for receiving impermissible benefits and then lying about it to the NCAA. The suspension was originally for his entire sophomore season, but was reduced to 23 games on Dec. 21.
Whether or not the suspension had anything to do with his going undrafted, the situation certainly didn’t help Kabongo’s cause.
“People probably have the wrong perception of me and what happened because the story that’s out there is not the truth,” Kabongo told SNY.tv after his Orlando Summer League debut with the Miami Heat on Monday afternoon in a 69-59 loss to the Utah Jazz.
“No one really knows the story unless I say it and I don’t think it’s important because the people that were involved are the people that know the story. They know what it is. What the media thinks, I’m not really concerned with that. The people that know me know what kind of person I am. That’s behind me and I’m just concerned with getting better.”
The 23-game suspension included 10 self-imposed games Texas and head coach Rick Barnes had Kabongo sit out while the NCAA investigated whether or not he accepted impermissible benefits from agent Rich Paul, whose client list includes LeBron James, fellow-Canadian and childhood friend Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph.
Eligible for the final 11 games, Kabongo averaged 14.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game before declaring for the NBA Draft where he did not get picked after falling towards the bottom of the second round, if at all, in many mock drafts.
Having caught on with the Heat for summer league, Kabongo is trying to make the most of the opportunity for a roster that may be able to use another point guard come next season.
On Monday, Kabongo admitted to not sleeping much on Sunday evening before coming out with nerves once the ball went up. The result was three points, 0-for-4 shooting from the field four assists and a 3-for-8 showing from the foul line. Defensively, Kabongo had a better day, helping to hold Trey Burke, the No, 9 overall pick in the NBA Draft, to 1-for-12 shooting from the field.
“I was very nervous, I won’t lie,” Kabongo said. “I missed my free throws I usually make. I’m an 80 percent free throw shooter, but I was just a little nervous today. Besides that, I took care of the ball, tried to change the pace of the game and I thought I did a good job making things tougher for the opposing guards.”
The Heat currently have two point guards on the roster, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. Chalmers will be a free agent next summer, while Cole will be in the third year of his rookie contract next season. Taking on a third point guard despite having LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at their disposal is not yet out of the question for the Heat.
“I’m just hungry, I’ve always been a hungry guy, I just let my play do the talking,” Kabongo said. “All that from last season is behind me, I can’t look at the past. I just worry about what’s happening now, so I just gotta get in the gym somewhere tonight and work on my free throws.”