LOS ANGELES (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - Luc Mbah a Moute helped put Cameroon basketball on the international map but now that he is contemplating retirement from the national team, he feels it's about time to have his last shot and try to win a FIBA AfroBasket title.
Although Mbah a Moute was named to the All-Tournament team - alongside Joaquim Gomes, Olimpio Cipriano, Marques Houtman and Rodrigo Mascarenhas - he returned to LA with a sense of unfinished business.
After sitting out the subsequent two editions of FIBA Africa’s elite tournament, the Yaounde native returned in 2013, but again Cameroon were eliminated in the Quarter-Finals by hosts Cote d'Ivoire.
Brazzaville, the capital of Republic of Congo and the site of next year’s FIBA AfroBasket, has now become the place that Mbah a Moute looks forward to being and reaffirm Cameroon's basketball potential.
The Los Angeles Clippers forward stopped by to tell FIBA.com why the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 matters to him and his country.
FIBA.com: With all the Cameroonian players in the NBA [Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam], the national team has a great future. Have you talked to them about this?
Mbah a Moute: I think that as we are all from Cameroon and very proud of where we are from, we all have this goal in mind. All of us want to represent Cameroon at its best. But there are also some circumstances that could make them not play for the national team, as they are still rookies. Regarding my situation, I think I will be here and play for the national team as it will be my last AfroBasket. My teammates and myself have been trying to make history and we have been fighting hard for ten years now to reach the title. I hope that this AfroBasket 2017 will be the one we bring the title back home. If both Joel and Pascal will come to play with the national team next summer, that would be great. If their respective teams don’t allow them, I am sure we can have a great team too. We have some great talents in Europe with guys like Kenneth Kadji and Jeremy Nzeulie for example, and if we work well, we can have a real shot to win the title next summer.
FIBA.com: Cameroon men's national team has been having some ups and downs in the last couple of years. How do you explain this changing dynamic?
Mbah a Moute: We always have the same problems but Cameroon is not the only country facing those problems. African Basketball in general lacks of organisation and the national federations still have a lot to work on. We all hope that the situation will improve and change soon. Our job is to come and play, and we would like to have a better preparation with the team and play more friendly games. With a good preparation, you can have a great campaign. It is going to be a great competition as every African country has a lot of talents and a lot of them have players in the NBA. But having NBA players isn’t sufficient and doesn't make you win automatically. The players need some monitoring, support and to be prepared the best way to start the competition.
FIBA.com: It's going to be your last AfroBasket. Are you dreaming about winning the title?
Mbah a Moute: That’s my dream. Since 2007, I have been dreaming about it. I haven’t reached that goal yet but for the guys that I started playing with in the national team and myself, I would like to win that title. I hope 2017 will be our year. We are going to give our best. The tournament is going to be very competitive.
FIBA.com: Do you think that the 2017 AfroBasket can be the best tournament ever hosted in Africa?
Mbah a Moute: If every African player who is currently in the NBA and the best ones who are based in Europe decide to come too, I think that it can be the best AfroBasket in the history. The last two tournaments were very good and countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Angola, Ivory Coast and Tunisia have been improving a lot in the last couple of years. We have never had so many talented players in the NBA and in Europe.
FIBA.com: The tournament is going to take place in the Republic of Congo, not that far from Cameroon.
Mbah a Moute: I hope that we are going to have a lot of fans coming from Cameroon. Congo has a great tradition of sport and I am sure that the tournament will be great. I would really like to play next summer. Right now I am focused on my season with the Los Angeles Clippers but when I am done with the NBA season, I’d really like to play with my national team.