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May 2001
April 2001
New York City
April 2001

Ruben Boumtje Boumtje: Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year

by M.C. Cohen

After a great regular season, Georgetown was not supposed to lose in the first round of the Big East Tournament. But a tough 58-40 loss to Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden abruptly ended their quest for the title. With a 23-6 record and a second place finish in the Big East’s West division, the defensive-minded squad from D.C. was not yet ready to go home, and the teary- eyed, dejected Hoyas sat quietly in the losing locker room.

In the middle of the room, drained from defeat, sat Georgetown’s seven-foot, 257-pound, senior center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje. “Of course we’re disappointed,” he said in a low whisper when asked about the loss. “We wanted to win this tournament. Unfortunately it’s not the case; we have to put this loss behind us and go back and work.”

As Boumtje continued to answer questions from reporters, it became evident that this would not be just another consolation speech by a defeated athlete. The president of the Georgetown math club and a math major, Boumtje was born and raised in Yaounde, Cameroon. Asked what it felt like to be named the 2001 Big East Scholar-Athlete of the year he said he was excited. As he continued, he couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for academics. “I didn’t really expect it. It was a great honor for me. But, more so for my parents, who are very happy for me.”

While the well-rounded Boumtje plans on heading to medical school some day, he still has some unfinished business on the basketball court. “My first option is hopefully to go to the NBA. If not, then medical school,” he said. Ruben was the third leading shot-blocker in the Big East this season, with almost three blocks per game, but his value to his team goes way beyond statistics. His athletic, intimidating presence in the middle of the Georgetown defense allowed the squad to hold opponents down to a meager 68-point average per game.

“He’s like a brick wall,” said Seton Hall guard, Desmond Herod. “He’s the key to a game. Whenever you go up for a shot, he’s there. You know he’s going to try to block your shot.”

Not bad for someone who didn’t begin playing basketball until he was 15. Growing up in Cameroon, Boumtje mostly played soccer, thus explaining why he still lacks some of the more refined offensive moves of other top inside college players, although he still averaged almost ten points a game this season. With his tremendous mobility and with the increased specialization of the NBA—a strong seven-foot defensive presence can help win games—Boumtje has a legitimate shot to play for pay.

“Pro scouts will look at him and look at his marvelous physical skills, understanding that he’s a very intelligent young man and put the two together and see that there’s great potential there,” said Len Elmore, an ESPN college basketball analyst and former NBA standout. “When he’s on, he’s as intimidating as anyone in the Big East.”

Whether in a warm-up suit or in a lab coat, Georgetown’s senior captain has come a long way since he arrived here before his senior year in high school. He’s improved his basketball skills, provided important leadership to his teammates and perhaps, most importantly, he has created his own opportunities for a bright future.


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