Hunk of the Day: Serge Ibaka

I love a Hunk of the Day who comes with his own awesome narrative. Such is the case of Serge Ibaka, and his website provided the following synopsis of a legendary career in-the-making:

Serge Ibaka was born in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, on September 18th, 1989, in a family with strong ties to sports and basketball. Serge is the son of two basketball players; his mom, Amadou Djonga, played with the national team of the Democratic Republic of Congo and his dad, Desiree Ibaka, played professionally and with the national team of the Republic of Congo. Basketball is almost in his genes. Serge started to play with a basketball from a very early age, spontaneously, trying to emulate his parent’s and his older friend’s skills. Childhood in a civil war affected country was not easy but Serge, who had to overcome difficult moments such as his mom’s passing and war related conflicts, always kept his basketball passion alive, and from a very young age dreamed of becoming a professional player and of being able to help his huge family: 17 brothers and sisters.

Serge had become one of the best prospects in Africa but never stopped thinking about getting better, progressing and playing at the highest possible level. And he did. Hand in hand with You First Sports Africa and after a long bureaucratic period, he headed to Spain. On March 19, 2007, Serge arrived at Hospitalet (Barcelona) and joined the junior team of the city club. His impact was immediate, and the team won the state junior Championship of Catalunya and classified for the Spanish tournament. From that moment on he wasn’t a secret outside of Africa anymore.

That summer he was invited to the adidas Nations basketball camp in New Orleans as part of the African team. It was his first trip to the USA and he took advantage of it: he was the best player on his team and one of the best in the whole camp, which gathers the best young players in the world. After a summer of hard work and dedication, Serge joined the senior team of C.B.Hospitalet that competed in the second Spanish division, the LEB Gold. Being the youngest foreign player in the league at 18 years old he finished the season with averages of 11,8 points, 8,3 rebounds and 3,1 blocks per game (best in the league in blocks).

During the season many NBA scouts visited him and saw him live and in April he took part in the prestigious Hoop Summit in Portland, an under 19 game, playing for the international team that played against the USA (he had 8 points and 8 rebounds in the game). In June, he attended the Eurocamp in Treviso, where he convinced everyone of his potential and was named MVP. His name was already on almost every NBA team’s agenda, so he decided to make himself eligible for the NBA Draft. On June 24th, 2008, he was chosen with the 24th pick by the Seattle Sonics.

In his second season in the NBA (2010-2011), he earned a spot in the Thunder’s starting five in mid season. He finished the regular season with 9,9 points, 7,6 rebounds and 2,4 blocks per game and a total of 198 blocks, more tan any other player in the league. In the playoffs, he helped the Thunder to arrive to the Conference Finals for the first time in their history, with averages of 9,8 points, 7,3 rebounds and 3,1 blocks. On that same season, Serge participated in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest at the NBA All Star Weekend in Los Angeles, another childhood dream come true.

In the 2012-2013 season, he established himself as a key figure in the Thunder alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and he achieved career highs in points and rebounds, with 13,2 and 7,7 per game respectively. He also averaged 3 blocks per game, good enough to be the best shot blocker in the NBA for the third consecutive season and to be elected as part of the best defensive team for the second straight season. In the playoffs, the Thunder lost in the second round. So the current 2013-2014 is a new opportunity for Serge Ibaka to prove his constant ascending value in the league and to try once again to win the championship ring with the Thunder.

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