Koblenz (heinnews) – One of the biggest names coming out of the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in L’Hospitalet was Isaac Bonga as the point guard for Brose Baskets Bamberg impressed any and all observers. But the 16-year-old German doesn’t care about any of the attention he is now getting.
“To be honest, I am not thinking about what people say. It’s not my problem. I focus on my basketball. If people think I’m good or not, I’m not interested in that. I will develop my game. That’s my main thing,” Bonga told heinnews.
Bonga wowed talent scouts in the Barcelona suburb with his amazing length and athleticism and ball-handling skills for a player with his size – 2.03m, 6-foot-7. He helped Bamberg reach the semi-finals by averaging 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals – earning him a spot on the ANGT L’Hospitalet All Tournament Team.
All that despite only playing with the German powers on loan from Regionalliga team Koblenz and Fraport Skyliners’ NBBL team. That unfamiliarity with his teammates is a major reason he averaged 6.0 turnovers a game, including 10 turnovers in the first game against Barcelona and eight versus Real Madrid in the semis.
When asked to evaluate his ANGT performance, Bonga said: “I had too many turnovers but it’s not my game. The people who see me and think I had 10 turnovers, but I didn’t really know the guys. I knew the guys but not really that well. If we had more practice together I wouldn’t have had so many turnovers.”
The Neuwied native said the ANGT experience was a great one and one from which he learned a lot.
“I learned to chill out in situations since we were playing together for the first time. I learned to keep calm because I’m the point guard and let the game come to me.”
Bonga has been playing basketball since he was 7 years old, playing street ball. When he was 9 years old, he moved to the local club and is currently playing with fourth division side Koblenz. He is also practicing once a week with the Fraport Skyliners professional team and playing with their NBBL U19 league team, where he’s averaging 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 3.0 turnovers.
Bonga has other athletes in his family. His older brother Tarsis Bonga is a rising star in the Bayer Leverkusen football system.
“He’s really talented and he’s already practicing with the first team,” Bonga said of his brother, who was born in 1997.
Isaac’s younger brother Joshua is already impressing people – in basketball. Despite being only 10 years old (2005), Joshua is playing in a U16 league with some excellent performances.
“The last game he had 15 points and 10 rebounds as a 10 year old playing against kids who were 14 or 15 or 16. He’s pretty good,” Isaac said of Joshua.
Bonga’s parents both are from Congo. His father came to Germany about 20 years ago, initially with the intent to go to Canada. He ended up staying in Frankfurt and then moving to Koblenz, where he lives with Isaac’s mother – also from Congo. Isaac said his oldest brother still lives in Africa.
Bonga is a common young adult. He likes to hang out with his friends and family. He’s a fan of comedies, especially ones from Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
Of course he plays video games too on his PlayStation. When he plays FIFA, he plays as Real Madrid. And when he rocks NBA, he’s playing as the Miami Heat.
“With LeBron?” asks the interviewer.
“Nah. Miami is my dream club because my dream player is Dwyane Wade. He has so much experience and he’s a really good player. He’s like 30 something (33) and he has everything an NBA player needs,” says Bonga.
Bonga likes to watch football/soccer with his brother and also likes to watch tennis. He also said he just started watching NFL football, though he admits he really didn’t understand the game that much.
Basketball is much more his game. And he’s already accomplished quite a bit, having played for Germany at three major international tournaments – the 2014 and 2015 U16 European Championship as well as the 2015 European Youth Olympic Festival, where Germany finished third in the tournament.
After the good EYOF result in Tbilisi, Bonga and his teammates suffered a disappointing 2015 U16 Euros, losing to eventual champions Bosnia and Herzegovina in the quarter-finals and then being defeated by France in the 5-8 Classification Round. That loss meant the Germans couldn’t finish in the top six, which would have guaranteed a spot at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship.
“All the German guys took a step up. We played well together at EYOF, but then the seventh at the Euro was bad for us, knowing we could have played at the World Championship. But we forgot about it pretty quick and started looking forward,” Bonga said.
That German team had a couple of nice talents including fellow 1999 generation guys Philipp Herkenhoff and Nelson Weidemann as well as Henrik Drescher of the 2000 class. While Drescher can play at the U16 European Championship again this summer, the others will attempt to move up and play with the U18 team as underage players.
“I hope for the young guys like Herkenhoff that we can play like the older guys. We want to show that we can play as good as them,” Bonga said.
Bonga is fully expected to make the team for the U18 European Championship, which will take place in Samsun, Turkey. And Bonga expects Germany to take a medal, which the country has never done at the U18 level.
“I think we will take a medal. I think we are a really, really good team,” said Bonga, who would team up with 1998 star talents such as Isaiah Hartenstein, Richard Freudenberg and Kostja Mushidi as well as players such as Moritz Sanders, Lars Lagerpusch and Ferdinand Zykla.
A top-five finish would get Germany into the FIBA U19 World Championship for the first time in history.
“It would be the best to go to the World Championship. It would mean so much. I think with this team we have to go to the World Championship because we are really good.”
Bonga for his part knows he has some strengths and weaknesses in his game.
“I need to work on my shot and my defense. I also need to get some more muscle,” he says.
When asked what he does well, he responded: “I have a good ball handle, good speed and passing skills.”
Bonga does not have a contract with a club right now with the agency Lumani 10.7 looking for the right situation with him.
“I am looking for a team that can help me. I have had offers from Frankfurt, Bamberg and (Bayern) Munich for next season. But my main thing is to have guys who can help me, to have good competition in every practice.”
Bonga knows that when you’re in practice, you’re focused on getting better – and not worrying about what others on the outside say or think about you.