An unquenchable thirst for knowledge
By Truman Reed
Mbah a Moute shot a career-high .480 from the field last season and bumped that figure to .520 during the playoffs.
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
When high school and college students enter the third year at their respective levels of schooling, many narrow their focus on completing their education and pursuing careers.
As Luc Richard Mbah a Moute begins his third season in the National Basketball Association, he will certainly be pursuing his career as passionately as he always has.
Fortunately for the Milwaukee Bucks, Mbah a Moute has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge - one that will undoubtedly extend his status as a student of the game beyond that of most of his peers.
Mbah a Moute averaged 6.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in his second pro campaign and helped the Bucks achieve a 46-36 regular-season record, their best since 2000-01.
The 24-year old Mbah a Moute also added playoff experience to his resume for the first time.
The 6-8, 230-pound forward upgraded his numbers to 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds during Milwaukee's first-round series against Atlanta last spring, helping the Bucks push the Hawks to seven games.
Those seven playoff contests became a valuable crash course within the courseload of his education.
"I learned a lot, especially the way this series went," Mbah a Moute said. "After losing two games, you can learn from that. It's never over. Just playing hard, the team that comes out with a lot of energy has been the team that won a lot.
"You have to come out with a lot of energy and bring it every night. It's never going to be as easy as you think and it's never going to be as hard as you think."
Mbah a Moute believes the playoff experience was vital for the core of his team, too.
"It was very important," he said. "The biggest thing we have to worry about is taking a step back now. We have a good thing going right now. I'm sure management is going to do whatever they can to make us even better.
"We have to get better, each player has to get better. That's the way we're going to take this season and make it an even better season next year."
Before leaving Milwaukee to visit his native Cameroon this summer, Mbah a Moute vowed to keep honing his game.
"As far as my game, I have to get better," he said. "I'm going to work on my game, especially on the offensive end, and try to continue to work on my shot, develop a post-up game and continue to develop my game.
"Defensively, I have to watch some tapes and try to see where I can improve and be the best defender I can possibly be."
Mbah a Moute shot a career-high .480 from the field last season and bumped that figure to .520 during the playoffs. Coming off a rookie campaign in which he did not make a 3-point goal, he sank six of 14 (.353) in his second pro season, but he won't let his progress to make himself complacent.
He achieved four double-doubles and continued his excellence at the defensive end, leading the team in steals 13 times and in blocked shots on 10 occasions.
He knows the Bucks need him to continue to develop his offensive game.
"It's always been a big thing just having a more consistent jump shot for me," Mbah a Moute said. "It takes time, and I'm going to put the work in and continue to work at it. I have to be better at it. Next year, I will be better at it. That's for sure. I'll put the work into it this summer.
"Just my all-around game -- driving, ball handling -- I have to get that better, and I have to get some of my athleticism back to be able to finish down there with those big guys.
"If I'm able to do that, I should be fine next year."
Mbah a Moute won't let his work to become a better offensive player detour him from his quest to become one of the NBA's premier defenders.
He plans to continue to thrive in his role of stopper.
"I'm going to continue to embrace it," he said. "One of my goals is to hopefully be the Defensive Player of the Year one day in my career, and in order to do that, you have to take on the best. That's what you have to do.
"I have to continue to work on my game. I'll try to watch as much tape as I can so I know the guys and see what they're doing because guys develop and guys get better during the summer. Kevin Durant is not going to be the same player next year, so I have to try and be a better defender as well. That's the only way you improve.
"Hopefully that helps me and it helps the team and we become a better team."
The Bucks became a much better team during Mbah a Moute's second pro season than they were in his first, and he enjoyed watching Milwaukee respond to them, particularly during the playoff run.
"That was great," he said. "Man, just the atmosphere ... Game 7, we went to Atlanta, but it wasn't as loud as it was in Game 6 here. That's got to be the top. I've never seen anything or played in a game that loud. "We love those fans, the way they embraced us and supported us all season. We're going to need the same support again next year and even better. That's going to help us a lot."