5 UCLA

The concept of the Final Four may be elusive in Cameroon, but it's within the grasp of one favorite son
November 20, 2006

Luc Richard Mbaha Moute's parents have never seen him play a game in person. When Mbah a Moute,a native of Cameroon who came to the U.S. in 2003 to play high school ball,helped UCLA reach the Final Four last spring, his folks didn't even watch it ontelevision. It wasn't until they screened a DVD he sent them after the Bruins'73--57 loss to Florida in the title game that his achievements became clear."They said, 'Why didn't you tell us? We would have come,'" Luc says."I told them it happened too quick. It surprised even me."

Maybe the onlything more surprising than UCLA's dash to the final was the role played by Mbaha Moute (pronounced umbah-a-moo-teh), an agile 6'8" sophomore forward whois entering just his sixth year of organized basketball. Though he was nothighly recruited out of Montverde (Fla.) Academy, he started all but one gamelast season and was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. A gifted postdefender with excellent hands and a knack for anticipating rebounds, Mbah aMoute was especially productive in the tournament. He made the decisive basketand steal in a dramatic comeback over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 and tied a seasonhigh with 17 points in the Bruins' 59--45 win over LSU in the Final Four.

Mbah a Moute'srapid rise was critical during an injury-riddled regular season in which sevenplayers missed a total of 89 games. The injury bug has not gone away: Juniorguard Arron Afflalo, the Pac-10 preseason player of the year, suffered a stressreaction in his left foot in July, while junior center Lorenzo Mata sat out allof the preseason after undergoing arthroscopic right-knee surgery. On the flipside, sophomore swingman Josh Shipp, who played just four games last yearfollowing surgery on his right hip, appears to be fully recovered; he andAfflalo will form one of the top perimeter tandems in the nation.

After hoistingthousands of jump shots over the summer, Mbah a Moute pronounces himself "ayear older and wiser," though coach Ben Howland is a bit concerned thatMbah a Moute's infatuation with offense might be detrimental. "He's judginghis whole game based on how he's shooting," Howland says. "That's thelast thing he needs to worry about."

If UCLA canovercome point guard Jordan Farmar's defection to the NBA and return to theFinal Four, Mbah a Moute will find himself playing in front of two specialfans: His parents have promised to meet him in Atlanta. "I won't say theytotally understand how big [the Final Four] is, but they're getting there,"Mbah a Moute says. After all, they're a year older and wiser too.

STARTINGLINEUP

6'5" Jr. 15.8 ppg 46.2 FG% PG Darren COLLISON 6'1" Soph. 5.5 ppg 2.3 apg --KEY RESERVE-- F James KEEFE* 6'8" Fr. 19.0 ppg 11.5 rpg

RETURNINGSTARTER *HIGH SCHOOL STATS

BIGQUESTIONS
Will Collison show good judgment in deciding when to push the tempo and when torun the half-court offense? ... Will Mata give the Bruins a scorer in the post?... Can Afflalo improve his draft stock without hurting the team?

SCHEDULE

Nov. 15 BYU

Nov. 20Chaminade*

Nov. 28 LongBeach State

Dec. 3 UCRiverside

Dec. 5 CalState--Fullerton

Dec. 9 TexasA&M†

Dec. 16Oakland

Dec. 19 SamHouston State

Dec. 23Michigan

Dec. 28Washington State

Dec. 31Washington

Jan. 4 at OregonState

Jan. 6 atOregon

Jan. 13 atUSC

Jan. 18 ArizonaState

Jan. 20Arizona

Jan. 25 atCalifornia

Jan. 28 atStanford

Feb. 1Oregon

Feb. 3 OregonState

Feb. 7 USC

Feb. 10 at WestVirginia

Feb. 15 atArizona State

Feb. 17 atArizona

Feb. 22California

Feb. 24Stanford

March 1 atWashington State

March 3 atWashington

*MauiInvitational †John R. Wooden Classic, Anaheim

FAST FACTS
COACH: Ben Howland (4th year)
2005--06 record: 32--7
Pac-10 record: 14--4 (first)
NCAA tournament: runners-up

ILLUSTRATION PHOTODAVID GONZALES/ICON SMIREADYTO RUMBLE
Mbah a Moute, who has been playing organized ball for only six years, is notafraid to get physical.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)