Friday, 18 September 2009

NCAA Dream comes true for Kong

Howard Tsumura of the Vancouver Province, who does such a fine job of covering high school and University sports in B.C. - his site Little Man on Campus is a must bookmark, has produced a piece on Bol Kong, who finally made it to Gonzaga earlier this week. Kong, who had been hotly pursued by several CIS schools, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining with the Bulldogs. Interestingly, the school and/or the basketball program have yet to make an official announcement regarding Kong's arrival and the SID from Gonzaga issued a "no comment" to Howard's request.

Dream comes true for Kong

VANCOUVER -- Bol Kong awoke on U.S. soil Thursday morning, determined to turn his greatest nightmare into his wildest dream.

The Province has confirmed through multiple sources that after years of being unable to gain entrance into the U.S. to play college basketball, the prodigious 6-foot-7 talent, one of the top players produced in B.C. high school basketball history, was finally allowed entry and is set to play for NCAA Div. 1 power Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA.

When profiled in The Province two years ago, Kong had been denied on several occasions to gain a student visa to travel stateside, owing to the fact that he didn't have all of the proper documentation in place for its processing. As well, he had to make sure he had met all of the academic standings required to attend the school.

Kong, who was born in Sudan, has been living in Vancouver since the age of 16 when his family moved from Calgary. And now, after gaining his Canadian citizenship in May, he also has the opportunity to play for the Canadian national team.

He left B.C. on Wednesday afternoon and by evening had arrived on the campus at Gonzaga, set to join a program that already boasts two former B.C. prep standouts in Rob Sacre of North Vancouver and Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops.

"I am happy to tell you the truth, that he's there," said former Richmond, SFU and UBC star Pasha Bains, who has had Kong involved with his DRIVE Basketball Academy the past three years. "He crossed the border last night and he sent a text message as soon as he got across that he was on his way to Gonzaga. He sent us another message when he got there."

Added Bains: "There were a lot exclamation points (in the text)."

The 21-year-old Kong could not be reached for comment and Gonzaga sports information director Oliver Pierce said late Thursday afternoon: "Right now we're in a 'No comment' mode. At this point we have no comment on his status."

Kong graduated from Vancouver's St. George's Secondary in 2006, sat out the 2006-07 season, then helped New Westminster's Douglas College win the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association title in 2007-08.

He has not played on a formal team since, but recently spent time with Basketball Canada's National Elite Development Academy (NEDA) in Ontario.

"He had to get down to the States because that is an environment in which he can flourish,” said Jamie Oei, Kong's former head coach at Douglas. “So it's great to see him get there so he can go about having a really great career."

Randy Nohr, the former Canadian national team player and current lead assistant coach of the UBC men's team, said he saw Kong playing on the outdoor courts over the summer in Vancouver, and felt that Kong's NEDA experience has been a positive.
"He's improved his game in the past year," said Nohr of Kong, who has a seven-foot wingspan and all variety of shots in his arsenal, including a silky-smooth jumper from three-point range. "He looked better than he did a couple of years ago."

Said Kong in Sept. of 2007 to The Province: "It's like teasing you to come, but you can't get there. But if I get in, it will be great. Like this huge weight has finally been lifted."

By all reports, that's precisely how he felt on Wednesday.

Also, a quick note from a local site in Spokane, WA on Kong's arrival

Official: Kong is a Zag

Bol Kong is finally a Zag

Kong, a Sudanese native who has lived in Canada since the age of 7, has enrolled for classes at Gonzaga after obtaining Canadian citizenship recently and his student visa earlier this week. The talented, 6-foot-7 forward verbally committed to the Bulldogs’ basketball program in May, 2008, roughly at the same time as fellow Zag Mangisto Arop, a native of Sudan who also settled in Canada at a young age.

But Kong’s status was in doubt – and the subject of endless Internet debate – as he worked through the immigration process for roughly the last 16 months. Arop’s paperwork apparently was already in order. Kong arrived in Spokane late Wednesday night, his first time on U.S. soil, and was on campus for classes Thursday, Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth said.

Elias Harris, a 6-7 forward who just finished playing for Germany in the European Championships, is expected to arrive in Spokane on Saturday, which would complete GU’s roster for the upcoming season.

More in the next hour or so, including the release of the schedule.

Finally, an interview with Kong's former coach at Douglas College Jamie Oei

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