Sooner forward Amath M’Baye pulled a shocker Wednesday, announcing his decision to enter the NBA Draft and forgo his final season at OU.
Such a shocker that even his head coach didn’t quite see it coming.
”I think, like everyone, we were surprised,” said OU head coach Lon Kruger. “I think I don’t know that anyone fully anticipated Amath’s decision.”
For many who believed he wasn’t quite ready and perhaps needed another year to polish his game, it prompted questions instantly as to why he made the move.
”A lot of things, you know,” M’Baye said. “I mean, I had a great time here, but I’m going to my 23rd, like I’m about to be 24 soon. I’m about to graduate in May and like my plan coming to the United States was always to make sure I took care of the academic standpoint as well as the basketball standpoint.
”And the fact that I’m about to graduate and the fact that I’m 23 years old, I think like I totally feel ready about like going out there and start making a living for myself and my family.”
It’s true that the allure of a player at 24 is less than a player at 23.
So, it’s easy to see how that can figure into the thought process.
”Oh yeah, of course,” M’Baye said. “I mean, there’s a lot of things there like that come into consideration. But that’s pretty much it, yeah.”
It’s also true that he’s from Europe, so going undrafted and playing overseas is probably more appealing to him than many other collegiate athletes in America, if that were to happen.
”I’m from France,” M’Baye said. “I grew up watching all the Euro League stuff and stuff and I can tell you it’s not that bad over there. They make a great living for themselves, and it’s a great environment to play in and, I mean, the NBA is definitely a dream. It’s definitely still a goal of mine, but as you said, the options are not bad at all.”
But there’s still also the fact that M’Baye stood to improve some during his senior season and make himself more valuable for an NBA roster, even if he was a year older.
He could have been on the 10.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game he averaged.
”Well, it’s easy for me to say,” Kruger said. “Of course that would be my opinion, but still he’s gotta want to be here. He’s gotta approach it with enthusiasm and the right frame of mind, and if he wants to be somewhere else as indicated by Amath, we respect that and understand that. And I don’t think it’s healthy for either if it’s not something he really wants to do.”
One thing’s for sure: once M’Baye hires an agent, there’s no turning back.
The 6-foot-9, 208-pound forward from Bordeaux, France said he’ll do so in the next couple weeks.
Then, it’ll all be up to OU’s other current posts to pick up the slack, including Ryan Spangler, D.J. Bennett and C.J. Cole, among others.
”You know, we like the group going forward,” Kruger said. “We like the group going forward a lot, their enthusiasm, their energy level, their chemistry’s gonna be outstanding. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. The group going forward’s gonna be a lot of fun, and they’re excited about it. I mean, they’re disappointed more for Amath and what he’s gonna miss out on than for their team.
”But they like Amath a lot, as did all the coaches and everyone on campus, too. So, we’re kinda disappointed he’ll miss out on all that, but we’re excited about going forward.”
On they move towards 2013-14 without one of their biggest expected contributors.
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