Dikembe Mutombo’s legacy continues through son

Credit: The Lovett School

Credit: The Lovett School

Ryan Mutombo will play at father’s alma mater Georgetown

Dikembe Mutombo parlayed his time at Georgetown (1988-91) into an 18-year NBA career that culminated with an induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2015 class.

His son, Ryan Mutombo, finds himself on the same path to the pros, having signed his letter of intent to play at Georgetown.

Mutombo, a senior at Lovett, is 6-foot-11 and rated by the 247Sports Composite as the No. 16 center in country.

ExplorePodcast: Dikembe and Ryan Mutombo discuss a possible NBA future

Although the comparisons with his father are constant and obvious, Ryan is determined to put his own stamp on the Mutombo basketball legacy, and he’s willing to put in the work. In addition to playing for the Lions, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, he is working with different personal coaches and strength trainers on his time. As soon as he gets out of bed, he knocks out 500 squats. He does 200-300 push-ups throughout the day. His before-school workouts run from 5:20-7:30 a.m.

Dikembe Mutombo, who played for the Hawks, even recalls instances where Ryan woke up around 1 a.m., unable to sleep, and knocked out a quick workout before going back to bed.

“I understand that the NBA is the elite of the elite, and I’m nowhere near where I want to be yet,” Ryan said. “It’s the little stuff that’s going to get you to the next level because it builds character, and ultimately it’s what the greats do. So as far as waking up at 1 a.m., or 5:20 a.m., that’s what I enjoy about the game. It’s all part of the process, and I love it.”

When Ryan gets to Georgetown, he’ll have a familiar face coaching him — Patrick Ewing, another Hall of Fame center who played for Georgetown before embarking on a 17-year NBA career, mostly with the New York Knicks. In fact, Ewing served as a mentor for Dikembe throughout his basketball career.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Ewing is such a fixture in the Mutombos’ lives that Ryan refers to him as “Uncle Ewing.”

“He used to call him that, but now he has to call him coach Ewing,” Ryan’s dad said with a laugh. “(Ewing) took me in and carried me to the promised land. He taught me the game and work ethic, and really embraced me like I was his brother.”

Said Ryan: “I have the opportunity to be coached by a Hall of Famer in Patrick Ewing. At the end of the day, that’s a culture I couldn’t pass on being a part of. I consider him extended family and now he’s my coach. ... He’s really just focused on helping me get better now, which I really appreciate.”

Mutombo’s primary mission at Georgetown is to get to the NBA as quickly as possible. He also listed his goals as making the starting five, being in contention for Big East freshman of the year, winning a conference title and earning a reputation for being one of the country’s best defenders.

“All of that, I feel, is within my grasp,” he said. “I’m just excited to get up to D.C. and get to work.”

He’s also won’t be shy about declaring for the draft after his freshman season if the opportunity arises. He will enter Georgetown undeclared on a major — he’s interested in a health-studies degree — and evaluate his draft stock after his freshman year.

“Whether you’re a late first-rounder or early second-rounder, you definitely want to be in that (NBA) environment, if that’s your goal,” Mutombo said, “because if you stay in college for a long time, you never know what could happen. You could get injured. New players come along and you lose your focus. So if you’re really serious about the NBA, then you’ll take the opportunity to go when you can, for sure.”

Credit: The Lovett School

Credit: The Lovett School

Mutombo’s skill set is on par with the versatility now required at the center position in the NBA and its rules shifting toward it being a faster-pace, guard-oriented league. His perimeter game and ball-handling skills are beyond those of his father’s, so it’s on defense where he hopes to improve most between now and a potential NBA career.

Ewing and Dikembe, who possessed the traditional big-man skills on defense, rebounding and post-up offense, can help Ryan with that.

“I want him to become the best defender as possible because that’s what will take him to the next level,” Dikembe said. “He continues to learn the game and imitate a lot of the things his father was able to do defensively. That’s something that brings me joy watching him.

“I’m proud of him.”

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