In his first visit to Africa in 16 years, Nuggets’ guard Emmanuel Mudiay scored 22 points to go with eight rebounds, nine assists, and three steals, but Team Africa wasn’t able to overcome a fourth quarter surge from Team World, as they fell 108-97 in the NBA’s Africa Game from Johannesburg, South Africa.
In what amounted to an All-Star game-like setting, Mudiay was able to get to the rim throughout with little resistance and did hit two threes but finished with four turnovers. He also played nearly 33 minutes, the second-most on Team Africa to Victor Oladipo, who finished with 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and took home Most Valuable Player honors.
Mudiay had a couple nice passes and played in control for the most part. He committed a couple ugly turnovers, trying to force passes that weren’t there, but overall, it was a positive showing in what was an emotional week for the young point guard. Mudiay finished 2-8 from three but a few of those were desperation attempts late in the fourth quarter and were tightly contested.
It’s tough to take a ton away from an exhibition game like today’s matchup, but it was good to see Mudiay post big numbers on an international stage.
For Mudiay, this was the 21-year-old’s first trip back to Africa in 16 years since he and his family fled the war torn country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire) when he was just six-years-old.
“It plays an emotional role,” Mudiay said of his experience this week in Africa. “Because it’s where I was born. Where my family was born as well, my mom, I finally got to see the life she lived to make a better life for me and my brothers.”
Heading into a pivotal third season with the Nuggets, Mudiay shifted his offseason workout regiment to be in Denver more during the offseason than he has in summers past.
Coach Michael Malone, who was on Team Africa’s coaching staff for today’s game, challenged Mudiay to be around the coaching staff and his teammates more over the past few months in hope that he can come into September’s training camp as an improved player.
“I give Emmanuel a lot of credit. At the end of the season, we met 1-on-1,” Malone said. “I told him ‘it’s the biggest summer of his life. You need to attack this summer.’ I challenged him to work harder, at a faster pace and to be in Denver more, with our coaching staff more. He’s been in Denver. I think Emmanuel’s had a terrific summer. As far as what he needs to work on, as a point guard, he has to work on pace. He can work on his jump shot. Become a more efficient shooter.”
Mudiay has been working on his jumper, along with his ball-handling, his defense, and his ability to play with pace as a point guard. He’s hoping a summer spent mostly in Denver around the coaching staff will pay off next year.
“I felt like last summer going into my second year, I was there some but not as much,” Mudiay said of spending time in Denver. “I felt it was important to get a better feel for my coaches and talk some stuff out as well and see some of the coaches that I’ll be working with during the season and during the offseason. It was important for me to go back and spend some time up there and see some of my teammates as well. I don’t look too much into that but then again it’s something that Tim (Connelly) and Arturas (Karnisovas), they brought up to me as well and I took it into consideration and it was something that I wanted to do myself.”