More and more African-born athletes are making their way to the States for prep school and college, and many more land with major clubs in Europe. Through the efforts of programs such as Giants of Africa (run by Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri) and Basketball Without Borders, the development infrastructure -- key to future success -- is slowly growing. National teams in Angola (Will Voigt), Uganda (George Galanopoulos) and other countries have hired coaches with professional experience to bolster skill level and understanding of the game.
With that in mind -- plus the potential end of the one-and-done era prior to the 2022 NBA draft -- it's key for teams to keep an eye on the young prospects rising through the ranks. There's one 15-year-old prospect in particular who warrants the NBA's attention. His name is Sadraque Nganga, or "Sada" for short.
Inside Nganga's game
Thousands of miles from his home in Luanda, Angola, the 6-foot-10 forward resides in Gilbert, Arizona, where he stars for Compass Prep. I evaluated him at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas and during a private workout in late December, and his talent is clear and his future bright.
Spent the evening watching Compass Prep rising freshman Sadraque Nganga work out in Gilbert. Really intriguing combination of physical tools and talent at 6-10. Just turned 15 in November. pic.twitter.com/7FwxODHZUK
- Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) December 28, 2018
Sporting a lean frame with a 7-foot wingspan, narrow hips, long strides and wing-like fluidity, Nganga looks the part of a late bloomer with plenty of physical upside to grow into. His skill level is starting to rival his physical potential with a positional handle, developing jump shot and impressive passing instincts. Nganga was late to the game, trading his soccer cleats for basketball shoes as recently as 2015.
"The first time I was not so good for basketball. I was good at soccer," said Nganga, who shined as a striker before a big growth spurt. "My dad told me, 'If you are tall, you need to play basketball.' My first time, I don't like basketball. I like it now."
But unlike many of his late-starting counterparts, it's Nganga's passing potential that makes him such an intriguing prospect. He can push in the open floor like a guard. He's unselfish with above-average vision. He'll tell you passing is his best skill, and he listed Ben Simmons and LeBron James when describing NBA players he likes to study. His favorite player is Gerson Domingos, a 5-foot-11 national team point guard who played with Nganga for Angolan club Vila Clotilde, where Nganga saw time at the under-15, under-18 and senior levels. It's not rim-rattling jams or pull-up 3s that interest Nganga most, but rather making his teammates better, a trait he developed playing soccer at a young age.
His path to this point has been unique and challenging.
"They come from extreme poverty, so he has a real opportunity to change his family forever," said Nuno Muandumba, Nganga's legal guardian in the U.S.
Nganga's parents, both of whom hail from Congo, struggled to find work to support Sada and his four siblings. He was discovered by Adilson Muandumba, Nuno's older brother, in a gym in Luanda in 2015. Adilson was there to scout another player but was blown away by Nganga's physical tools and potential.
"First he talked to my coach," Nganga recalled. "My coach told him he needed to talk to my mom first. He told my mom I'd be coming [to the U.S.] for education and basketball. Maybe I could go to the league. Mom said yes."
The Muandumba family is well-known in Angola. Nuno and Adilson's father, Goncalves Muandumba, was the country's Minister of Youth and Sport from 2009 to 2017, and he's now the Governor of Moxico, Angola's largest province. Adilson came to the U.S. to play at William Jessup and -- along with Nuno and his brothers, Patricio and Gio -- plays a large role in bringing young Angolan prospects to the States. The Muandumba family is well-versed on the American development system and played a role in helping Angolan prospects Bruno Fernando and Silvio De Sousa, among others, transition to the U.S.
After Adilson saw Nganga in that small gym in Luanda, it became clear that he had more potential than any prospect who came before him.
"More than anything, the biggest difference is his natural feel," Nuno Muandumba said. "I never in a million years would've believed a kid from Angola would have that kind of feel for the game at that age. From a skill standpoint, the combo of size and perimeter ability that he possesses is unique."
Soon after seeing Nganga play, Adilson arranged for the lanky prospect to come to the U.S. along with four other Angolan players. Nganga originally jettisoned to Portland, where he had a brief stint at the U.S. Basketball Academy. The Muandumba family brought Nganga to Arizona in the fall of 2017.
Nganga enrolled at Shea Middle School with plans to go to Mike Bibby-coached Shadow Mountain High School, but due to Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) rules, he was unable to play there. He went back to Angola for six months, played for Vila's senior team and had a new visa issued. He came back to Arizona in July 2018, played for the Las Vegas Prospects on the Nike EYBL Circuit and committed to play for Compass Prep.
Nganga's buzz is growing quickly. He first broke out at the Chris Paul Rising Stars Camp in August, an elite showcase for the top freshmen in the country. Most recently, he flashed his potential -- and areas for improvement -- at the Tarkanian Classic against some of the top schools in the area. He has picked up offers from Arizona State and Oklahoma, with interest from Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Rutgers, Cal and Saint Mary's. Surely more schools are set to come.
Although he has yet to play in any FIBA competition, Nganga figures to have a bright future with the Angolan national team, which just qualified for the 2019 World Cup. Led by longtime G League head coach Will Voigt -- along with Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach John Bryant and experienced athletic trainer/strength and conditioning coach Shaun Mirza -- Angola is as well run as any program in Africa. The federation is organized with financial freedom, and the development infrastructure is steadily improving; later this year, Fernando likely will be the first Angolan be drafted into the NBA.
As he continues to mature physically and develop his skills, Nganga should have a bright future at the national team level, something the 15-year-old has his sights set on.
"I need to keep working," Nganga said. "I can do more."
Nganga is praised for his curiosity and eager nature. He spends about four days a week working out with former Northern Arizona University standout Gabe Rogers. They watch film and sharpen Nganga's perimeter skills. Muandumba is focused on harnessing Nganga's handle, shooting potential and passing game. Nganga still has room to improve his shooting consistency, decision-making and toughness as a finisher, defender and rebounder, but his skill base is encouraging.
He's clearly at an early stage of his development and has a long way to go before he can be dubbed a sure NBA player, but Nganga's talent and tools are intriguing. By the time he's draft-eligible in 2022, the NBA is expected to lift the one-and-done rule, which would allow Nganga to bypass college, something his camp is eyeing depending on how he develops. There's a lot that could happen between now and 2022, but Nganga has everything in place to develop into yet another African-born NBA player, continuing a trend that doesn't show any signs of slowing down.