As young high school graduates everywhere are preparing to start a new chapter in their lives by starting university or college, one teen in particular is preparing a very special chapter in a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Patrick Mwamba is a young basketball player from Democratic Congo, standing at 6’6” with a 6’8” wing-span. The 18-year-old Congolese prospect was enrolled at the NBA Academy in Senegal, and as a result of his hard work and dedication in the program, he will be joining the University of Texas in Arlington as a forward for the Mavericks.
Patrick started his youth career in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, at the PJB Academy at the tender age of 12. Through the stringent basketball and education program offered there, Patrick was eventually able to share his talents on the international stage, traveling to Italy, Belgium and Germany. In 2016 he represented his beloved DRC at the Under-18 AfroBasket tournament In Kigali, Rwanda. His extraordinary grit and determination resulted in impressive numbers, totaling 160 points in 8 games and a recognition as the best scorer of the tournament.
The unparalleled performance lead to a few offers to play abroad. Two months after the AfroBasket tournament, Patrick was invited to participate to Basketball Without Borders in Angola, in another extraordinary performance saw him granted MVP of the tournament. Patrick’s maturity in the game caught the eye of some NBA representatives, eventually leading him to leave the DRC and relocate to Senegal to join the NBA Academy, widely considered the best basketball program for the youth in the continent. This granted the young star the opportunity to work with a tremendous coaching team, and meet and train with talented players from different parts of Africa, many on whom Patrick describes as not only his teammates but as family away from home. He speaks about the hard decision to leave the DRC for basketball; “At the age of 16 it was not easy to leave my family to live in Senegal, it was [a very] difficult decision.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo has a history of marking the NBA with valuable players, most notably legendary centre and hall of fame inductee Dikembe Mutombo. Players like Mutombo have inspired a lot of kids like Mwamba to play basketball, and has garnered support for basketball development programs for the youth with his involvement in camps. An early supporter of Basketball Without Borders, his participation helped to motivate upcoming future players to start playing basketball. Another recent leader from the DRC is Charlotte Hornets centre Bismack Biyombo, another mentor with youth camps who also recently helped inaugurate a court in Goma at the Kivu International School’s sport and education facility. All these programs, infrastructure and leadership from DRC natives gives motivation to the youth at home to participate more and more in basketball while pursuing education, giving rise to talented youth like Patrick Mwamba.
The NBA Academy in Senegal further allowed Mwamba to participate in worldwide tournaments in the Czech Republic, the USA and notably Australia, where he was again recognized as the best scorer and all-star player of the tournament. Mwamba expresses his gratitude for the time he spent at the Academy, gaining the discipline, leadership and teamwork needed, and learning that these skills are not limited to the court. It enabled him to travel and play in 4 continents, developing his basketball IQ by competing against some of the best athletes in his age group and learning other cultures.
With 6 years of training and hard work under his belt so far, Patrick will continue his education in Business Management and pursue new goals in his upcoming NCAA career with his new team, “My goal is to play [in the] Final Four, and if possible – why not? – carry the cup”. His long-term goal is to play professionally in the NBA, and dreams to be eventually drafted to the Boston Celtics.
Patrick shares his thoughts and hopes for youth development programs at home that helped him get to where he stands today, “To improve basketball in Africa is to build [a] solid infrastructure for [the] upcoming generation. Invest more in the youth because the youth are behind us, and it’s the future of Africa”
By : Yussuf Yanni