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8/18/2006 11:51:00 AM

Blog Q&A With ... UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

Luc Richard Mbah A Moute
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, outrebounding NBA lottery pick Tyrus Thomas in the Final Four.
Bob Rosato/SI
For the third in a series of summer blog Q&As, I checked in on UCLA sophomore Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who as a freshman played a major role in the Bruins' 2005-06 run to the Final Four. His 7-foot-2 wingspan helped him average a team-leading 8.2 rebounds per game, and his hard-to-pronounce name (umbah-a-moo-teh) and status as Cameroonian royalty (he's a real-life prince) made him a cult figure in Westwood.

SI: The "Cameroon Crazies" and "Moute Kicks Boute" shirts were all over at the Final Four in Indy. Are they part of your summer wardrobe now?

LR: A couple of my friends have them, but I personally don't have one. I won't wear one, because I can't wear anything with my name on it like that [the "Boute" shirt has "Prince" and "23" on the back]. I'm not an arrogant guy, and to me that would be arrogant.

SI: But you're fine with the fact that they exist?

LR: Oh yeah. I was very excited when I saw them. I was so happy with the guys who made the shirts -- I think I had a great game the first day I saw them. Seriously. It meant a lot. Those people give me a lot of love and support. Sometimes that boost can help you win the game. That's one of the reasons I'm happy being here at UCLA.

SI: You've been playing in the Nike SayNo Pro City League this summer in L.A. with a bunch of other Bruins. What's the biggest summer development to the Prince's game?

LR: I've basically been trying to get my confidence back from the perimeter. I've always played perimeter spots [he started playing hoops as a point guard], but last year I ended up playing the four, so I'm getting used to playing back outside again.

SI: So you're not going to be playing the four this season? I didn't know that ...

LR: No, I'm going to be playing both. The three and the four. If guys like [incoming freshman] James Keefe and Alfred Aboya are down low, I can play outside. Keefe's on my team [the Sinclair Bruins] and from what I saw this summer, he can play. He has good moves down low, he can shoot from mid-range and he can rebound. He's going to be able help us this year because of how much he works.

SI: What was your reaction when you found out in June that your point guard from the Final Four run, Jordan Farmar, was turning pro?

LR: I was happy for him. He felt like it was the best decision, and the coaches were happy for him, too. Especially because he got taken by the Lakers. He can get better there, and he's playing at home. At the same time, it's a great loss for our program, since Farmar was such a great leader. We have the right person to step in, though. Darren Collison is ready.

SI: What's the difference between playing with Collison at the point, as opposed to when Farmar's running the show?

LR: The difference is, especially last year, Darren was kind of tentative. He was a freshman. He didn't know what to expect. Jordan was the leader, he always knew what was going to happen, and had the right words for everything. Next year I know Darren will be fine, because he has had the experience and love from Jordan and everything.

SI: And Collison's speed will help, too, right?

LR: Yeah, Darren is a quicker, faster guy. Jordan was a more controlled point guard who could penetrate; Darren goes much faster, but they can both run the team well. This year we're going to have the right personnel to run more, which is good. And it's not just because of Darren. We've got players like Josh [Shipp] coming back, we've got a freshman guard, Russell Westbrook, who can run too.

SI: Switching gears a bit ... I know Cameroon missed the World Cup, but this was a huge summer for soccer. I assume you're still a big fan?

LR: Definitely! What kind of question is that? My dad played pro soccer in Cameroon -- he tried out for the national team, even. People would always tell me, "Your dad was a great player." I didn't get to see him play until he was older, but he was still good -- a flashy player with talent. He was a striker, one of the best positions in soccer. To play that position is not easy.

SI: And what position did you play as a kid?

LR: I started as a goalie, then played striker from when I was nine or 10 to about 14. After that I got into basketball, at a junior club in Yaounde called Onyx.

SI: Have you played any pickup soccer at UCLA since you've arrived?

LR: I don't have a chance to because I'm so busy with basketall. I want to play a little soccer, but I can't go out and get hurt for basketball.

SI: Well, do you play the FIFA video games, at least? I've been hooked on FIFA World Cup lately ...

LR: Yeah, I play. I'm undefeatable on FIFA! I'm indomitable, just like the Lions -- the "Lions Indomptables," that's Cameroon's nickname. I do everything, I score, I play D.

SI: Cameroon's D isn't very good on that game, though. Their offense is sick, with Eto'o -- but the defense, not so much.

LR: I make 'em good. I'm a soccer player, man. I take the ball. I create, I use people the right way. I use the midfield to distribute the ball, I use my wings to cross, I do everything.

SI: I'm going to have to play you at some point, if I come out to L.A.

LR: You better get two or three months of practice in. Just let me know when you want to get schooled.

SI: OK, OK. Since Cameroon didn't play in the World Cup in real life -- only in video games -- who was your favorite player this summer?

LR: Hmm. I'd have to say Zidane.

SI: And do you care about what he did in the final? The head-butt?

LR: Kind of. You know, the way it looked, that's not a great thing for a player like him to do. At the same time, if the guy [Italy's Marco Materazzi] really said what he said, you never know if you're in that situation. You never know what's going to happen. Zidane's a great player, and there are so many great things about him … but maybe that was a mistake.

SI: So should Pac-10 opponents be worried about you head-butting them next year?

LR: We'll see. They better not say anything about my family.

Readers: Can Mbah a Moute and the Bruins make another Final Four trip, even without Farmar at the point? Is Luc going to be more than a "Glue Guy" this season? And do you think you could school him in FIFA? Discuss all that and more in the comments. The blog will be on a one-week hiatus, starting on Monday ...
posted by Luke Winn | View comments (4) |


Posted: 6:47 PM   by Anonymous Annice
UCLA will be fine without Jordan Farmar. Too much emphasis has been placed on Jordan's contribution to the program. People forget that Dijon Thompson and Brian Morrison returned UCLA to the NCAA's the year before and they have been swept aside for Jordan. Jordan simply contributed to the continuing evolution of the program.
Luc will continue to surprise..........
Once the this group of guys develop a camaderie and understand what is expected of them, UCLA will undoubtedly perform better than all these supposed newspaper/Internet pundits are postulating.
Posted: 10:16 PM   by Anonymous FiatLux
LUUUUUUUUUC's my favorite player! Thanks, great interview. Go Bruins!
Posted: 9:40 PM   by Blogger Bobby D
Sounds like a very classy young man, wish him the best!
Posted: 12:21 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I was fortunate enough to meet Luc Richard and get his autograph at the UCLA hall of fame in Westwood. He's a classy guy, and deserves All-American consideration for the rest of his career. Great interview, and go bruins!!