In the world of basketball, so many great players will not receive the credit they deserve, just because they’re not in the NBA. The truth is, there’s hundreds of basketball players out there who are almost as good, if not as good as the current NBA players. Players who have the skill, but are just a few good games away from the league. Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of those players, Mathieu Kamba. Kamba is an extremely well rounded, super athlete who has shown incredible and rapid improvement on his path to the NBA.
I was blessed with the opportunity to interview Mathieu over text, I asked him lots of personal questions about his life, basketball and going pro. But first, some background information. Mathieu Kamba was born on May 10 1995 in the Southern African country of Zambia. Kamba grew up in Calgary, and ended up at Bishop McNally High School, It was here where he won Bishop McNally’s first ever senior basketball championship. Kamba then went on to Central Arkansas to play out the four years of his college career. Kamba now plays professionally overseas, in Spain, but will return to Canada this summer to play in the CEBL.
It’s February 9th, 2002. A 7 year old Mathieu Kamba is watching his first televised NBA game, the 2002 NBA All Star Game. Kamba says this is the very game that introduced him to basketball, and started him down the road he is still on almost 20 years later. It was during this all star game that Mathieu Kamba had his first glimpse at seeing Allen Iverson play. Kamba said “Allen Iverson sparked my love for the game… I could relate to his height, and everything he did on the court just looked so cool”. From here on out, basketball became Kamba’s passion. Who would’ve guessed back then that Kamba would grow into one of the most well rounded basketball players I’ve personally ever seen. He is a phenomenal shooter, incredibly strong finisher, explosive super-athlete and lock down defender.
I’ve attached some of Mathieu Kamba’s highlights over the years at the bottom of this article, and I highly encourage you to check them out. Kamba’s athleticism is absolutely phenomenal, and makes for a great watch!
Kamba ended up playing for Bishop McNally High School in Calgary, Canada. It was here that Kamba collected what he said to be his most significant basketball memory. Winning the school’s first ever senior championship was something that has stuck with Kamba to this day. But the time came when high school was over, and it was time to scope out college interest. Kamba apparently had a rocky road to the NCAA, despite his admirable high school play. Kamba apparently had “a pretty good amount of division 1 schools” he could’ve attended, all of whom were surely impressed with his well rounded skill set. Unfortunately, Kamba got caught up in some Twitter drama, and some tweets from one of Kamba’s friends upset a portion of the potentially interested coaches away. Kamba also struggled to obtain his eligibility with the NCAA, and waited an extended period of time to receive confirmation from the NCAA that he was eligible to play. Many more schools turned away from Kamba as the uncertainty of his eligibility lingered.
Mathieu was apparently “fed up with the NCAA eligibility process” and was “in the midst of quitting basketball and attending a USports school” when he finally received the call he had been waiting for. Central Arkansas’ Russ Pennell told Kamba he had an open roster spot. At the time, Coach Russ was a first year coach, and had cleared the roster except for one spot. Despite Kamba’s uncertainty of eligibility, Pennell offered Kamba this final spot, and if his eligibility wasn’t ready, Pennell even offered him the alternative of joining the team the next year. “(He) seemed to believe in me” said Kamba. Luckily, two days later the NCAA finally approved his eligibility. “So I headed to Central Arkansas, not really knowing to expect” Kamba said.
So off Kamba went, from Calgary, Alberta to Central Arkansas, where he would spend the next four years, working his craft. In his freshman year, Kamba started just about half of the games, starting 13 of 29 games and averaging 26.8 minutes per game. Kamba averaged 7.9 points per game on a solid 47% field goal percentage. Kamba’s only struggle was his three point shooting, which was at 10%, however, by his junior year, Kamba was averaging 40% from three point range, a true testament to Kamba’s continuous improvement. In his sophomore year, Kamba played around the same minutes, however he notably increased his field goal percentage to nearly 60%… as a shooting guard, this is highly efficient. In his senior year, Kamba finished off his college career averaging 13.8 points per game, as well as 6 rebounds. Kamba said the most memorable event of his college year took pace in his senior year, when Central Arkansas played the University of California, as well as UCLA teams which are in the PAC-12 Conference. Kamba led Central Arkansas to a stunning win over California, and came up just short in overtime to the star studded UCLA, led by players like Aaron Holiday and Jaylen Hands.
With his college career in the books, it was time for Kamba to pursue his pro career. Unfortunately, Kamba was not drafted to the NBA, but this hasn’t stopped him. “The NBA was my main focus… still is” said Kamba. Instead of quitting, Kamba decided to pursue an international career en route to the NBA. “I’ve also realized playing internationally could take me (to the NBA) too” Kamba said on his choice to play overseas. Kamba’s pro career began in Spain, where he played in the Spain-LEB. Kamba joined Saenz Horeca Araberri, where he would play 34 games, and average 12.4 points per game. When asked what the biggest difference between playing in college vs pro, Kamba said “The difference is that I had a freedom to be a playmaker”. The coaching staff in Spain believed in Kamba, and gave him the ball to exhibit his impressive scoring and shooting abilities, which in turn made Kamba into an elite playmaker. Kamba said the freedom to shoot the ball and score off 1 on 1 coverage gave him confidence, because he had the opportunity to prove that he could score on anyone, even the pros.
With a very successful first season in Spain, Kamba was now searching for a summer league to stay in shape for the next season in Spain. The Canadian Elite Basketball League was a perfect fit. “I was a good shooter but not super consistent… playing through the summer gave me much needed confidence” Kamba said when asked why he chose to play in the CEBL in summer 2019. Kamba also grew up in Calgary, so the CEBL was an opportunity to play in Canada, and Alberta for the first time since high school. “It was cool to have people I grew up with come watch games”. Kamba was drafted in the second round of the first ever CEBL draft, to the Edmonton Stingers, where he would spend the next 3 months. Kamba started the season off relatively slow, however managed to obtain a starting role on the Stingers. Kamba finished the season with an average of 7.7 points per game. He he was an incredible defender, and can be credited for a large portion of the Stingers defensive efforts and gelling. Stingers coach Jermaine Small said Kamba was “probably our most improved player”. Kamba’s explosive dunks and elite 3 and D game impressed the Stingers fans and coaches.
After his season wrapped up in Edmonton, Kamba returned to Spain, where he would play on Leyma Basquet Coruna. Kamba currently plays here, where he averages 10.9 points per game. Notably, his 3 point shooting percentage has skyrocketed to almost 46%. Kamba will also be returning to Edmonton to play with the Stingers for the 2020 CEBL season. Kamba was also a member of the Congolese National Team in 2018, with whom he has dual citizenship.
When I asked Mathieu what he thinks the future holds for him, he told me “I think if I continue on the path I’m on and continue to commit to the grind, I can be in a top 5 league in the world”, Kamba finished our interview by telling me he wants to “make sure the people closest to (him) are well taken care of”.
Check out some highlight reels below!