Mouphtaou Yarou, Radnicki Kragujevac

Nov 04, 2013 by Javier Gancedo, Print
Mouphtaou Yarou, Radnicki Kragujevac
Mouphtaou Monra Yarou - Radnicki Kragujevac - EC13 (photo Radnicki - Dusko Djordjevic)By downing Spartak St. Petersburg at home last week, Radnicki Kragujevac has showed its credentials as a candidate to advance from Group H of the Eurocup Regular Season. Radnicki joins a three-way tie for first place at 2-1 with its main pillar so far being center Mouphtaou Yarou, arguably the most pleasant surprise in this Eurocup season. Yarou has started his professional career in Radnicki after graduating from Villanova University. He has exploded in his first three Eurocup games, registering double-doubles in each and earning Round 2 MVP honors with a performance index rating of 41. Yarou leads the 2013-14 Eurocup in rebounds (14.3 rpg.) and is tied for the best index rating (32 per game) while hitting 75% of his two-point shots, 21-of-28. Born in Benin, Yarou started playing basketball in 2003 in his home country and only has one goal in mind - keep improving every day to earn everyone's respect, as he told us in this interview. "I am playing against professionals and I am a college kid who has to prove himself. That's what I do and I want to keep playing hard, every game," Yarou told "It has worked well until now and I will keep doing it - it is what I have done my entire life."

Hello, Mouphtaou - congratulations on a great start of the season. With the win against Spartak, Radnicki is in a good position to battle for a Last 32 spot. Which were the keys to win this game?

"I would say defense. We played very good defense, especially against their point guard, and rebounded the ball well. We know we can play well on offense but the key is always defense. We knew their point guard (Steven Burtt) could pass and shoot the ball and we did a really good job against them. We all know our roles and what we do, so it is easy to rebound the ball. We know when any of us is going to shoot so we go to the weak side to rebound the ball."

You are a new team Eurocup team with a lot of newcomers but has two wins and a narrow road loss so far. How did the team manage to do so well so far?

"We have practiced very hard - and know that the next time will be hard, whether it is the Adriatic League or the Eurocup. We always play against strong teams in both competitions - Partizan, Red Star or any of the teams in our Eurocup group. That is the mindset we have every day in practice. We know we are always facing big teams and have to play hard every day."

You have been unstoppable until now - three double-doubles in as many games. This is your first year as a professional player, too. How did you adapt so quickly to professional basketball?

"It is easy for me to adapt because I have been travelling all my life. I have never been home and I tend to adapt quickly. I also have great teammates that I have become best friends with since the day I came. We hang out together and it is easier to adapt to the plays and the team. My teammates and coach trust me and that helps my confidence, too. I play hard for them, my teammates and coaches."

Few people - only those who follow NCAA basketball - knew about you. How would you describe yourself as a player? Which are your main strengths?

"My defense and rebounding, basicly. I am also good at jump shots and offensive rebounding, which is my best skills. I know the role than I am playing, in every team that I have played for. The most important thing is that I know the role my teammates have, too. When they have the ball, I know what they are going to do. For instance, I know Dennis Seeley is a three-point shooter so when he has the ball, I know what I have to do. We all know our role and it is easy to play like that."

Being a new player who has been under the radar... do you think that you caught a lot of people by surprise so far?

"I know people did not expect me to play like that on offense because I play defense my whole college career. I always try to do my job - growing up, my parents told me that it was very important to know my job in the team. Coach wants me to be aggressive on offense because they want me to produce, rebound and play defense - and that's what I do. It is easy to play as an underdog, when nobody expects anything from you. Every day, I know I have to play at a high level, play hard every single day and on every single possession. I am playing against professionals and I am a college kid who has to prove himself. That's what I do and I want to keep playing hard, every game. It has worked well until now and I will keep doing it - it is what I have done my entire life."

Moutaphou Monra Yarou - Radnicki Kragujevac - EC13 (Photo: Radnicki Kragujevac)You come from Benin, a country where basketball is not very popular. How did you start to play basketball and how were your first steps in our sport?

"It was my brother who actually taught me how to play basketball. I started in 2003 and by 2007, I went to a high school in the States. I was a good student and my brother's best friend, who lived in the States, got me the I-20. I went to Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia and then to Montrose Christian School in Maryland. It is a big program, Kevin Durant played there. I joined Villanova after that but the first time I played organized basketball was in high school. I learned a lot of lot from all my coaches in high school and college. I am lifetime learner so every time I go somewhere, I want to learn something new to get better. I am always humble because you can always learn from anybody."

You already played three Eurocup games. How did you find the competition?

"There is a different mentality. It is high level and every player is really good. Everyone is a professional, that is what they do for living. So far so good! I was expecting something like this. Playing in Greece was tough and Spartak was difficult, too. It is a great experience, I am looking forward to every single game. I hope we keep doing good!"

Radnicki will face Neptunas Klaipeda in Lithuania and return home for two more games. How important will these three games in your race to advance to the next round?

"First of all, we have to win one game on the road, which is really hard. We have to take at least one away and then win at home. We have lost so many close game down the stretch that we know what to do - take care of the ball, rebound and keep playing defense. We have to be strong at home in the Eurocup and try to win that game in Lithuania."

This is just the beginning of your professional career. Many African players had long careers in Europe, winning continental titles. How much would you like to be one of them?

"First of all, it is a great honor for me to keep the legacy going. Coming from Africa, we have our role models. I will soon play against Jeleel Akindele, somebody I followed a lot when he played in Russia, France, Italy... It is a good chance for me to keep playing better. I have to take one step at the time and try to improve every day and work hard."