Royal Role Model
By Becks Kenaw
It's not everyday that you get to meet the Ambassador of the Republic of Cameroon ... unless, of course, you are a prince.
Last Friday afternoon, Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who is a prince in his village of Bafia (Bia Messe), visited the embassy of the Republic of Cameroon in Washington D.C. to meet Ambassador Joseph Charles Foe-Atangana. With the Bucks in town to face the Wizards that night, his Excellency invited Mbah a Moute to the embassy to honor him in front of his fellow Cameroonians and members of the media.
Before the ceremony began, Foe-Antangana and Mbah a Moute spoke in the ambassador's office for about 15 minutes. During their conversation, Foe-Atangana congratulated Mbah a Moute on his success with the Bucks and spoke to him about the importance of staying close to your roots.
After their one-on-one meeting, the two then spoke to the crowd that had gathered at the embassy. Mbah a Moute and Foe-Atangana each addressed the group in mostly French, which is one of Cameroon's official languages along with English, and presented each other with gifts. Mbah a Moute brought a Bucks jersey for the ambassador while Foe-Atangana gave Luc a Cameroon flag.
Even though Mbah a Moute is a prince in his native village, that was not the reason for his meeting with the ambassador. It was because of his work with the Bucks on the court and his community involvement away from it that has made Mbah a Moute a great ambassador in his own way for Cameroon.
"First of all as an ambassador, I say congratulations to Luc and I invite other Cameroonians to relate to what he has done in their various domain," Foe-Atangana said during his speech. "Don't hide yourself. If you distinguish yourself in performances like Luc has done, I'm sure that there are many other people of that kind that are hiding themselves and I invite them to come and be recognized by Cameroon authorities."
Mbah a Moute's journey from Cameroon to the United States began in 2003 when he arrived in Florida to attend Monteverde Academy for high school. He then went on to play basketball at UCLA for three years and made it to the Final Four each season. While Mbah a Moute has made a career in the NBA, only one other Cameroonian was able to do the same before him. Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje played for Portland from 2002-2004 and was someone Luc looked up to before entering the league.
"Growing up, we always talked about him and what an impact he had on the sport of basketball, which is not a very popular sport back home," Mbah a Moute said. "There were also other soccer players who impacted me because they were professional and representing Cameroon on a higher level in their different clubs and that made me want to do that also. I just happened to have more attributes in basketball."
During his talk at the embassy, Mbah a Moute also noted the challenges he had to overcome after emigrating from Cameroon. He talked about the difficulties of being away from family and playing a different style of basketball. While the athletes that went before him provided inspiration, he credits his upbringing in Cameroon for helping him adjust to life in the United States.
"You really have to value all the lessons and the values you learn from growing up, because when you grow up in Cameroon, everybody says nothing is impossible," Mbah a Moute said. "When you grow up in Cameroon, with all the lessons they give you with how to listen to your teachers, listen to your coaches and listen to all the people around you and how to be a good kid, all of those things help you out; so when you come to a different environment, it's not easy, but it makes it better for you to adapt."
Now that Mbah a Moute is in the league, most of the world sees him as a starting forward on the Milwaukee Bucks and developing into one of the toughest defenders in the NBA Those from Cameroon though see him as a great ambassador for their country.
"I take it very seriously and I love Cameroon," Mbah a Moute said. "I'm going to continue to do my best and work hard to get to the top and represent Cameroon at a high level."Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: Drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round (37th overall) of the 2008 NBA Draft ... averaging 6.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this year ... has career averages of 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game ... currently a member of Cameroon's national team and participated in the 2007 FIBA Africa Championship where they won the silver medal, falling to Angola in the gold medal game ... more information available on his official Web site www.mbahamoute12.com