Oklahoma basketball: Sooners will count on talented Amath M'Baye in 2012-13

OU BASKETBALL — Amath M'Baye has to sit out this season after transferring from Wyoming. But the Sooners are hoping M'Baye will be a major contributor in the 2012-13 season.
by Michael Baldwin Published: February 28, 2012

Amath M'Baye speaks three languages. His English is good, but a few words remain foreign.

When M'Baye says “talented,” he pronounces it ta-lint-ed.

“Sometimes when the three East Coast guys talk he looks at us like we're crazy,” said Steven Pledger. “We help him, but it's kind of funny.”

It's no laughing matter what the French native could bring to Oklahoma's men's basketball program.

The Wyoming transfer is sitting out this season. He won't be with the Sooners Wednesday night for a road game at Texas, but he might be the most talented player on OU's roster. Or as M'Baye says: “ta-lint-ed.”

“He's a very good player,” said OU coach Lon Kruger. “He brings a lot of versatility. He shoots well from the perimeter. He's good in the mid-range game. He's a good rebounder. He'll block shots. Amath will fit in really well right away.”

Pronounced ah-Mott EM-bye, the 6-foot-9 forward didn't play basketball until he was a teenager. He doesn't have elite shot-blocking skills but in some ways is a scaled down college version of Thunder star Serge Ibaka.

Starting his career late like Ibaka, M'Baye jumped on everyone's radar at the European Championships three years ago when France won the silver medal.

“He's a dynamic player,” said forward Romero Osby. “He's strong and can play inside or on the perimeter. He's a good defender. He's a shot blocker. He'll bring a lot to the table.”

M'Baye has 3-point range, but he can score in the paint. His skill set is similar to Osby's inside-outside game. The differences are Osby weighs 20 pounds more and M'Baye is a better ball handler and more of a perimeter threat.

He's so versatile the Sooners might start M'Baye, Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald next season. M'Baye could play small forward and move inside when Fitzgerald or Osby need a breather or run into foul trouble.

M'Baye also brings an intangible that at times has been missing this season — energy.

“His motor never stops,” Pledger said. “He doesn't know how to stop. He can change speeds when he needs to, but he goes 120 miles per hour. There is no zero. He can jump, shoot, rebound. You ask him to go get a rebound and he'll go get three of them.”

Assistant coach Steve Henson said M'Baye's passion, drive and energy are contagious.

“That's the thing that excites us the most,” Henson said. “When you add he's 6-8 or 6-9, is very athletic and plays that hard, a lot of times that type of energy comes from guys that aren't as big or talented. He has both.”

WELL TRAVELED

M'Baye was born in France, lived in Senegal from second to eighth grade, then moved back to France. That's when he started playing basketball at age 15. Within four years, he was one of the country's top prospects.

In the summer of 2008, M'Baye played for the African Adidas nations team and the French Hoops AAU team, averaging around 15 points and six rebounds.

The following year, playing on the Under 20 French national team, two teammates were Portland's Nicholas Batum and the Washington Wizards' Kevin Seraphin.

“That gave me a lot of confidence and taught me a lot,” M'Baye said. “Playing all year long, whether it was it was my club team or the national team helped me catch up with stuff I was lacking before.”

M'Baye came to the United States the following year when Babacar Sy contacted him. From France, Sy was coaching at Stoneridge Prep in Semi Valley, Calif. M'Baye received some college offers, but Wyoming had an edge.

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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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OKLAHOMA AT TEXAS

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Erwin Center (Austin)

TV: ESPN2 (Cox channel 28)

Radio: KOKC-AM (1520)

Three things to know

* Texas' junior guard J'Covan Brown leads the conference in scoring (19.5) and is sixth in steals (1.3).

* The Sooners are 2-23 in their last 25 Big 12 road games dating back to Blake Griffin's final road game.

* OU led by eight points late in the first half but lost 69-58 in the first meeting two weeks ago in Norman.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Oklahoma (14-14, 4-12)

Pos.;Player;Ht.;Cl.;Pts.;Reb.

G;Sam Grooms;6-1;Jr.;6.5;*6.1

G;Cameron Clark;6-6;So.;8.5;4.2

G;Steven Pledger;6-4;Jr.;17.0;4.1

F;Romero Osby;6-8;Jr.;12.3;7.7

F;Andrew Fitzgerald;6-8;Jr.;12.3.;5.0

Texas (18-11, 8-8)

Pos.;Player;Ht.;Cl.;Pts.;Reb.

G;J'Covan Brown;6-1;Jr.;19.5;*3.8

G;Julien Lewis;6-3;Fr.;7.6;3.7

G;Myck Kabongo;6-1;Fr.;10.4;*5.1

F;Alexis Wangmene;6-7;Sr.;4.7;4.8

C;Clint Chapman;6-10;Sr.;7.2;5.3

* assists

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