My impression after speaking to him was that MBA internalized much of the criticism he received last year, and comes into this season with a true desire to prove doubters wrong and show that he can be a major contributor in the Husky frontcourt.
I’d have been concerned if MBA had seemed oblivious to the fact that most people watching the team the past two seasons feel that there’s a lot of unrealized potential in his 6’9″ frame. My gut is that he feels the same way.
Here’s part II of the interview:
MM: What part of your game have you worked on the most during this off-season?
MBA: In the off-season, I’ve been working on a lot. Coach doesn’t want his players to be one-dimensional, so I was working on my post moves and footwork around the basket, and also getting a lot of shots up from as far as 18 feet, and making moves facing up from the mid-range.
MM: What kind of numbers would you consider to be a statistical success for you next season?
MBA: The numbers will speak for themselves. There will be a lot of banging and hard work going on. If I keep a high motor, and the rest of our bigs do too, then I believe that we shouldn’t have a problem producing and keeping our intensity up the whole time we’re on the floor.
MM: If the season started tomorrow, who do you see as the starting five for the Huskies on opening night?
MBA: You never know whats going on in Coach Romar’s head. That’s what keeps you working hard daily in practice, but if i HAD to give you a starting five, I guess it would be: PG-Gaddy (only slightly over Venoy Overton), SG-Thomas, SF-Pondexter, PF-Gant, and C-MBA.
MM: Describe the intensity that goes on behind the scenes when guys battle for starting jobs?
MBA: Ridiculous from the number one guy to the 12th or 13th guy. Everyone wants to make a good impression, and we are a very deep team, so more often than not, the second team is playing harder, and or even better, than the first team. We are very competitive in everything we do which only makes us better in the long run. That’s why I believe Coach Romar has teams that are 8, 9, or 10 men deep in the rotation.
MM: Tell me a little bit about MBA off the court? What’s your family like? What do you do with your spare time? Who’s your best friend on the team?
MBA: Off the court, I’m very laid back, chilled, always up for having a good time, and just hanging out with friends and teammates. But that’s just how the whole team is off the court. We may be the goofiest team in America, always making one another laugh and just having fun.
My family is like me — sort of just really chilled. We speak a lot with one another. My parents retired and moved to Ghana, in Africa. And, my brother still lives in London. We all get along very well.
During my freshman year, my closest teammate would probably have been Justin Holiday, because we lived together. But, honestly, now it’s wide open. We are all the same, and we all hang out together, so it’s not like I see some teammates more than others. I’ve just grown to love these guys like a family and it shows in how we are on and off the court.
MM: What does your nickname “Numbers” mean?
MBA: (laughs) “Numbers” came from London, because I was always young, playing up, and I’d be trying to do a piece of everything on the court: score, rebound, block shots, get a couple of steals, and throw some dimes, so i was always filling up the stat book, in one way or another. So, they started calling me “Numbers.”
MM: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
MBA: Playing somewhere for money. (laughs) Nah, but just to be playing the sport i love, and hopefully to my highest potential and getting rewarded for it, I guess. Most people don’t understand how time consuming it is, and see the games and the walking around campus. That’s just the icing on the cake. They don’t see the hours of prep on and off the court. Baking takes a lot of time to produce the cake — there’s a lot of ingredients. (laughs)
MM: Tell me about your relationship to Coach Romar? What’s it like to play for him?
MBA: Romar’s a good, stand-up guy. He never breaks a rule, and doesn’t expect anything from someone that he wouldn’t do himself. And, he pushes players to reach the best of their abilities. He also has a good sense of humor, and pretty much has to with guys he’s brought in and has had in the program in the past. (laughs)
Thanks for coming! Class of 2011 recruiting column, (probably) another PAC-10 opponent interview, and much more to come this week.