2022 NBA Draft Q&A: French big man Ismael Kamagate

2022 NBA Draft Q&A: French big man Ismael Kamagate

Ismael Kamagate is a 6-foot-11, 220 pound big man Paris, France who is currently playing for Paris Basketball. Thus far on the early season, he is averaging 7.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per contest with the team.

Former NBA scout and scouting advisor, Jason Filippi, recently had the opportunity to speak to French NBA prospect after a breakout 27-point, 11-rebound performance in his team's victory over Alba Berlin in a preseason tournament.

Who is Ismael Kamagate? Tell us about yourself, your family and where you are from.

Ismael Kamagate: I am from Paris, France. I was born in the 19th District of Paris, but now I live in the 14th District of Paris. I am 20 years old. I have two brothers and two sisters as well as one half-brother. We are all very close.

Does your family follow your basketball career?

Kamagate: My mother never misses a home game and she will bring one of my brothers or sisters to each game with her. I only have two complimentary tickets per game.

When and where did you start to play basketball?

Kamagate: I started playing for a local neighborhood youth club called Basket Paris 14 when I was 12 years old. Then, when I was 15 years old, I went to play for the Paris Levallois team in [the] 3rd Division. My first professional experience was in Orleans though. I was in Orleans for three years, and I made my debut with the French U18 national team in 2019 at the FIBA U18 European Championships. I guess that is when Paris Basket noticed me, and they made me an offer to come play for them the following season.

Who is the best player you have played against?

Kamagate: Well, the best players I have ever faced were on the French Senior National Team, with whom I trained and scrimmaged against this past summer as they prepared for the Olympics. So I guess the best player I have ever played against has to be Rudy Gobert, but I was also very impressed with Evan Fournier and Nando de Colo. Fournier really impressed me with his work ethic and his intensity. Nando De Colo is probably the most talented and skilled player I have been around – he can really shoot and score, but he is also such a great passer. I was also impressed with his leadership. I really looked up to him and he gave me a lot of valuable advice. Anyway, this was a great experience for me and I am so proud they won the silver medal at the Olympics.

Who is your favorite player(s)?

Kamagate: My favorite player is Kevin Durant, but I also like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid. Bam Adebayo is the player I have always compared myself to though.

Do you watch a lot of NBA games and basketball in general? 

Kamagate: Well, I like to watch NBA games, but obviously because of the time difference, it is not convenient for me to watch them — considering I have practice in the mornings. But if it is an early game, I will definitely watch it. OKC used to be my favorite team, but after Kevin Durrant left I pretty much just root for the teams that Gobert, Fournier, [Nicolas] Batum and any other French players are on. I really like the way Miami plays though, too. I also just started to follow the EuroLeague more closely this past season.

Was this Euroleague preseason tournament basically the first time you had ever played against a Euroleague team? 

Kamagate: Yes, this was my first time playing against EuroLeague teams. The biggest difference I have noticed besides the physicality and intensity is that EuroLeague teams will punish you for even the smallest mistakes.

What are the areas where you think you need to improve the most? 

Kamagate: Well, I need to improve a bit at everything. I am trying to do more things on court now like putting the ball on the floor more. The one thing that I have really been focusing on during the offseason though has been my shot, and trying to increase my shooting range.

What do you consider to be your best skills out on court?

Kamagate: I would say my mobility for sure, and also my passing ability.

Based on what you have shown in this tournament, you look like a very improved player! Tell me about what you did this summer to better your game?

Kamagate: Well, I had a very busy summer with very little time off because, in addition to training with the French National Team for the Olympics, I also played for the French U20 Team too. When that was over though, I went to Germany to work on my game with Holger Geschwindner (Dirk Nowitzki’s long-time personal coach). It was a great experience working with Holger, who I had met last year through my agent who is based in Dallas. In addition to working on my shot and basketball skills, we also worked a lot on my footwork. Then when I returned home to Paris in August, I just worked a lot on my body – both my strength and conditioning – as well as adding more power to my legs.

This is obviously going to be a decisive season for your career, as you and your team will be playing in French Pro A for the first time. What are your goals for the season?

Kamagate: The main goal will be to help my team win as many games as possible (and remain in the French 1st Division). At the same time, I look forward to being able to play against the best big men in France, and hopefully by the end of the season, I will have improved enough to be considered a top center in the league myself.”

This past summer, you did not put your name in the NBA Draft like many thought you would. What is your plan moving forward?

Kamagate: I did not feel ready to try to make the jump to the NBA this past summer. I think there are still too many things that I need to work on and improve at. If and when I will go to the NBA, it will only be when I feel I am ready. My agents, Comsport, also agreed with me on this, and they have done everything they can to help me improve.

So it is fair to say that you will definitely be putting your name in the 2022 NBA Draft?

Kamagate: Yes, that is the plan. To be ready for real this time.

What about your long-term goals? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Kamagate: That is very far ahead for me (laughs). My future goal now is to simply work hard and keep improving until, hopefully, I will be able to make a name for myself in the basketball world.

The NBA is the ultimate goal for any professional basketball player. However, if you never made it in the NBA, would playing in the Euroleague be gratifying enough?

Kamagate: Obviously the NBA is my dream and ultimate goal, but I am realistic, and I know that the EuroLeague is a great competition also, and I would be lucky to have a long career playing there too.”

What about a scenario where you are indeed drafted by an NBA team but they decide to “stash” you in Europe for another year to two?

Kamagate: I would be okay with that too. Obviously, I would be motivated to work even harder and prove to my team that I am ready, as well as worthy of them spending a draft pick to take a chance on me.

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