Thomas Ndong is yet another up-and-comer from Quebec, Canada, a region which has steadily produced a hotbed of basketball talent in recent years such as Luguentz Dort and Chris Boucher. At the 2019 U15 Canadian National Championships, the 6’8'' power forward helped Team Quebec knock off Team Ontario for the gold medal by tallying seven points and 11 rebounds. Ndong’s basketball journey had previously taken him from his hometown of Montreal to Royal Crown Academy in Ontario, Canada — then in December, he moved to join the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City and has made huge improvements to his game as a versatile frontcourt player.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Ndong discusses a day in the life at the NBA Academy Latin America, who he looks up to, basketball culture in Quebec, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2023 prospect Thomas Ndong, from Montreal, Canada:
Pro Insight: Can you share a bit of your background?
Thomas Ndong: My dad is African and my mom is Canadian. I lived in Quebec for all of my life. I'm here in Mexico because the manager of Team Quebec, he shared about me to an [NBA Academy] coach and then the coach saw some highlights and he sent me an [NBA Academy] invitation. I took this opportunity to come and improve myself more.
PI: Prior to that, you were at Royal Crown Academy?
TN: Yeah, I was at Royal Crown Academy for the first semester last year and I came to the NBA Academy after Christmas.
PI: What are some of the main things at the NBA Academy that have helped you with improving your game?
TN: The coaches. The coaches are very good. They understand what I need to do and will show me drills that will allow me to improve. Yeah, they are always looking for improvements [from us].
PI: How’s life at the NBA Academy? What does a typical day in the life of Thomas look like?
TN: I wake up in the morning. Go eat breakfast. Class from 8 AM to 11 AM. 11:15 AM, we are in the gym practicing. And Tuesday to Thursday, we have weight lifting. After that, we go eat lunch at 1 PM. We start practicing again at 4:45 PM. And then we got class from 6 PM to 8 PM. After that, dinner is at 8:30 PM. It’s a long day, but it goes so fast.
PI: What are some of your biggest interests outside of basketball?
TN: My biggest interest I'll say it’s reading and watching basketball videos to learn some moves that I can practice — new moves. Yeah, reading for sure. Talking to my family everyday. That’s about it.
PI: What apps are you on the most?
TN: The apps I am on the most, it's of course, WhatsApp because I get to talk to my family through WhatsApp — and YouTube because I'm watching basketball videos every time I can. So I can see and analyze for example, people in the States, what can I do better? What can I do so I can be better than them? I’m looking at the class of 2023 teenagers in basketball and analyzing these players to know what I can do better.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
TN: My favorite music artist I’ll say is Pop Smoke.
PI: For those who don’t know, describe your game.
TN: I’m a power forward, which means that I can drive to the basket. I’m like a post/guard, it depends sometimes. I can shoot the ball. For example, if I finish a play, I can shoot it and make the basket, or if I'm really wide open, I'm confident. I'm confident with my shot and I play defense. I can guard point guards sometimes.
PI: What is your biggest strength on the court?
TN: I think rebounding is one of my strong points, one of my strengths because I’m tall. I’m six-foot-eight, so it’s kind of easier to get the rebounds.
PI: What are some underrated aspects of your game?
TN: My shot, because I didn't used to be a shooter before and I’ve really improved my shot a lot. So people, they used to give me space because they think I cannot shoot. Now they have to guard me closer.
PI: Who do you model your game after and study on film?
TN: The player I watch a ton of videos on is Tracy McGrady. He doesn’t play anymore, but I watched a lot of his games because I’m trying to be a player who can be like him. Like he can shoot, he can drive to the basket and dunk the ball. He’s the kind of overall the player I want to be.
PI: Coming from the Quebec area, did you watch some Luguentz Dort as well?
TN: Yes, I saw a bit of his videos because we played together. We met each other on the court one time because he went to a tryout at Toronto at Royal Crown. I saw him play and I was like, “this guy is nice, but I think I can surprise him one day” and he kind of motivates me to surprise myself everyday, for sure.
PI: How has the basketball culture in Quebec evolved and continued to grow?
TN: I'd say that basketball grew in Quebec and became more popular in Quebec. Maybe not as much as in the United States because there's a big league in the NBA. And I think that in Quebec, it’s not because you’re from Quebec that you don’t have to play basketball, basketball is everywhere in the world and even in Quebec. I’ll say basketball is important as it’s one of the three most played sports in Quebec. I think it should be the number one, but sadly, it is number three. I think we have some good programs in Quebec, but people are just not as interested in basketball.
PI: After the NBA Academy, would you consider taking the G-League Ignite route or other professional options besides the NCAA?
TN: I think about joining the G-League but I still need to look at the strong points of that, and the strong points of going to an NCAA college, because I think both of them are great. In the G-League, you’ll play with pros — playing with pros and [NBA front offices] can watch you and be like “oh, I like this guy, maybe we should invite him to training camp for the NBA team.” For college, I can pursue a degree so if basketball doesn’t work, I can still have another path that works.
PI: What’s your recruitment update?
TN: I think I should have interest [from schools] by the end of this year. That’s my goal. I trust next year to have some offers from big schools — that will be for next year and this year having interests and maybe some offers.
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
TN: Success...I’ll say, is a big word, but everyone can attain success or be successful in life. You just have to work hard every day and it will depend on your mental fortitude, how motivated you are, and how determined you are to be successful. Success, I’ll say, it’s just a reward for your hard work.
PI: What do you personally feel you’ll need to accomplish in your career in order for you to become satisfied?
TN: Playing in the NBA is going to be the biggest success in my life. It’s been my dream since I started playing basketball when I was six years old. I was watching some NBA, some Kobe, some LeBron James, I heard that LeBron James was going to the NBA and he didn’t do college or university. I was like “if he can do it, I can do it too.” So it motivated me everyday since I was six years old to be better everyday and hopefully reach that goal.
PI: Who’s someone you look up to?
TN: My role model would be my father. Even though he’s not a basketball player, he works hard every day. He’s experienced racism, but he keeps his head up and focuses on being the best person he can possibly be. He’s not afraid of failure. So that’s why he pushes hard every day to make us proud of him. So I want him to be proud of me and be as successful as he is.
PI: How would you describe yourself in just a few words?
TN: I’m a kind kid. I like to show love to people. On the basketball side, I’m a shooter and I’m underestimated.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
TN: I want to be remembered as a man from Quebec who has been successful in life and in the NBA. There’s a preconceived notion in Quebec that you cannot be successful in basketball. I want to provide for young people who try to do the same as me — play basketball and want to make it to the NBA. I want to motivate these young people to be better everyday and represent our country in the NBA.