Feb. 9, 2012
By Andrew Gilman | SoonerSports.com
NORMAN, Okla. -- These are the hardest days for Amath M'Baye.
He watches the losses. Tries to enjoy the wins. But really, the scoreboard has nothing to do with it.
"2012 has been hard," M'Baye admits. "It's been a challenge."
Chances are you've never noticed M'Baye (his name is pronounced ah-MOTT EM-by). Yes, he's part of the Oklahoma basketball team, but M'Baye has yet to play a game, take a road trip or even put on the uniform.
Instead, the 6-foot-9 transfer from Wyoming is waiting out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Instead of playing, he practices. Instead of being part of the record books during Lon Kruger's first season at OU, he takes a deep breath, tries to get through another workout and hopes this year goes by fast.
"Until a couple weeks ago, I was doing fine," M'Baye said. "But I'm ready to start playing."
And the hardest part might be knowing he's good enough right now to make a huge difference.
"He'll figure into our plans right from the start," Kruger said of next season.
|Amath M'Baye Bio | Men's Basketball Tickets | Gameday Central|
That's because M'Baye is a unique talent. He started every game as a sophomore at Wyoming and averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds. He also showed Kruger, while Kruger was coaching UNLV, what kind of player he was, scoring 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting against the Rebels.
"Amath will make the transition quickly," Kruger said. "He works so hard and loves to play. He can score in the post and from the perimeter."
M'Baye scored in double figures eight of his last nine games at Wyoming and had six or more rebounds in all but one of them.
"I'm really excited to have him play next year," said forward Andrew Fitzgerald, who lives with M'Baye. "He's very athletic and really competitive. He could step right in and play now. He's really active and could be one of the best players in the Big 12 next year."
And that would be quite a journey for the junior forward. M'Baye grew up in France, lived in Senegal for a time, played in prep school for a year in California before playing college basketball at Wyoming.
"He's seen it all," OU guard James Fraschilla said. "OU is just the next step along the way for him."
The first step started in France when M'Baye decided he enjoyed basketball. He has played with the Under 20 French National Team and, as a French citizen, he'd like to someday play for his country's Olympics team.
But for now, he just wants to play for OU.
"Every time Coach tells us we've got (however) many games left and that we've got to do our best and play hard, I'm like, 'Please go by fast, please go by fast,'" M'Baye said. "I can't wait."
So, that's where Fitzgerald and the other Sooners step in, making sure M'Baye doesn't get too upset, too anxious or too dejected about not being able to contribute this season.
"He can get down," Fitzgerald said. "I tell him the season will go by fast, so prepare and get ready. I'm always talking to him about staying focused and calm. I know his time will come, but I know it's tough on him sitting on the bench for home games and not getting to go when we play on the road."
Maybe this means the basketball will be easy for him once he gets on the court.
"The sitting out is the toughest part," Kruger said. "He's used to playing. He's played his whole life and now he probably feels a little detached. And it's a bit awkward."
But only until he gets on the court.
"He's putting in just as much work as the rest of us, but he's not getting the benefit of playing," Fraschilla said. "He realizes how much this will help. And in the next year, you'll see. He'll be much more of a threat."