Growing up in Republic of the Congo, Igor Ibaka always lost playing one-on-one against his big brother. Of course, big brother went on stardom in OKC.
Serge Ibaka, "I always won the one-on-ones. He keeps doing a good job and looking at me as example and keep working."
While Serge puts up a double double almost nightly, Igor does the same, just with little fanfare on the JUCO ranks at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
Igor says, "My experience is good. Basketball is different than it was in Spain. But it's good, I like Miami, Oklahoma. Africa its hot, here it's very cold."
From Brazzaville in the Congo, with a population of around 1.3 million, to playing basketball in Spain, then finally, Miami, population just over 13 thousand. So just how did he get here? He had help from a friend, also from Congo, Mookie Uter.
"We spoke on Skype and He always wanted to play college basketball. So I went to speak to my coaches to see if they can help you."
And after a visit to a camp in Dallas, Coach Grover made an offer that day and Igor made his way up to Miami. He started off slow, "Here Basketball is Physical, fast, but in Spain, it's different, slow." But is now making an impact.
Coach Dustin Grover says "When you see him every day you don't think about him being Serge's brother, you think about him being Igor and he's a good player."
Igor has a lot of looks from some mid-major colleges, including Wichita State and has heard from major conference school like Penn State, but he still has some improvement to do on his game.. and in his 6th language, English. Igor knows, Lingala, French, Catalan, Spanish, Swahili and as for his English. "My English, you know, coming along pretty good."
Coach Grover said, "I think it was an eye-opening experience. More than anything I think he was just trying to get adjusted to the language difference. I think the small town didn't affect him nearly as much as what we were all saying."
Igor still uses his other languages constantly, in fact he uses multiple languages in the locker room with players of other cultures. But he also leans on big brothers advice to get him where he wants to be, the NBA.
Igor Ibaka says "My brother, he's busy, me too, I have school, basketball. I have a hard time getting in touch with my brother, but when I have a week I go to Oklahoma City go see him play in a game."
Serge Ibaka says, "I've been in the states before him, I try to make sure he stay focused. And keep working at school and in basketball.