15-year old (doesn't turn 16 until November) Mali big man Moussa Doumbia is one of the most promising young future prospects in Europe. He is still very raw but he has NBA-caliber physical tools and he is going to be in a great spot to improve his basketball skills playing for the prestigious Stella Azzurra Rome Academy where he will receive top-notch coaching and development. In two years, he will be a major target for many high major colleges, not to mention a player who will be on the NBA scouting radar, as well.
In this interview, Moussa Doumbia talks about how he first started to play organized basketball almost by chance, how he got recruited by Stella Azzurra, his role models, his desire to play for the Mali National Team and represent his country, as well as his future goals.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 15-year-old prospect Moussa Doumbia, originally from Mali, Africa:
Pro Insight: Tell us about yourself and your family. Where are you from? Do you have brothers or sisters?
Moussa Doumbia: I am from Mali. I have two older brothers who are living in France, now. My parents are still living in Mali. One of my brothers had a promising soccer career in front of him but injuries derailed his dreams. He is working as a waiter now while my other brother works for a security company.
PI: Have you been able to visit with your family this past year?
MD: Unfortunately I have not been able to see my parents due to covid travel restrictions for over a year now. I have been able to visit my brothers in France though and hopefully when things get back to normal they will come visit me in Rome soon, also.
PI: When and where did you start to play basketball?
MD: I first started to play just for fun with my friends in Maii when I was six years old. We would play at local youth clubs or at the playground. The moment that changed my life though occurred when a foreign coach saw me walking down the street and literally ran after me because he saw how big and tall I was. He said that he knew some coaches and agents in Serbia and that they could help me pursue a professional basketball career. So after getting the approval of my family I went to Serbia and lived in Belgrade for five months. I practiced with some local minor league teams. It was very tough for me being away from home for the first time, not knowing the language. I was very homesick — a real culture shock.
PI: So how did you find your way to Stella Azzurra?
MD: While I was in Serbia, some coaches from other countries who had heard about me came to see me in Belgrade. Among them was coach Germano D’Arcangeli. So I had a tryout with Stella Azzurra and they offered me a spot in their Academy. I did some research and saw that Stella Azzurra had a great reputation and that they had a great program for young foreign players like myself. It was a great opportunity to settle down in a new country and in a great city like Rome.
PI: Tell us about your life at the Stella Azzurra Basketball Academy.
MD: Everything has been great! I have been here for almost a year-and-a-half now and I am so grateful for everything. My teammates, coaches as well as the club’s support staff (doctors, teachers, tutors) have taken me in and helped me feel at home. My mornings are dedicated to school while the rest of the day is all about basketball. Everything I need is here on campus.
PI: Do you study in French or in Italian? Are you studying English, too?
MD: French is my mother tongue but my school courses are in Italian, obviously. Luckily there is a foreign language teacher who speaks French also who helps me translate things when I don’t understand something but my Italian has improved a lot. I am also studying English, now. I realize that in the international basketball world English is the official language so I want to learn it well.
PI: Does listening to songs in English help you learn the language? Who is your favorite artist?
MD: Yes, I think it does help even though sometimes it is hard to understand some words in songs. My favorite singer is Pop Smoke but I like many different types of music.
PI: Is there a specific player that you think your game resembles or that that you try to model your game after?
MD: Yes. Rudy Gobert. I try to study his game a lot. I look at how he positions himself on the court, how he contests shots, how he affects the game on defense as well as how he plays on offense. Hopefully I can become a player similar to him.
PI: Is Gobert your favorite player then, too?
MD: Actually, my favorite player is LeBron James. Simply the best ever.
PI: Do you watch a lot of NBA games?
MD: Yes, I do, but I have to admit I like to watch only the games of specific teams — in particular the Lakers and Utah because LeBron and Gobert are my two favorite players.
PI: What are your strengths as a player and in what areas do you think you need to improve the most?
MD: Right now I need to improve at everything. I am still young and I know that I need to work hard. At the moment, I feel I can help more on defense than on offense by rebounding, setting picks and blocking shots. I need to work on my shot and at reading things better out on the court. But I know I am getting great coaching here at Stella Azzurra so I know I will improve (smiles).
PI: Would you be interested in going to the USA to play college basketball?
MD: I haven’t thought about that yet but, yes, I would definitely consider it if the right opportunity arose. I am only 15 years old and still have three more years of high school so I am in no hurry and have time to think about it.
PI: What do you like to do in your free time?
MD: Well I don’t really have much free time between school and multiple practices every day. I usually just hang out with my teammates and I like to go out to get ice cream. When I am alone, I like to watch movies or play video games.
PI: Have you had the time to explore Rome and the rest of Italy yet?
MD: Not much really but obviously Rome offers something new and interesting every time I go into town. I have been to Venice, though. Amazing! And before I moved to Rome, I spent two weeks training in Bassano del Grappa at the Oxygen Orange Basketball Academy.
PI: There is another young player from Mali at Oxygen Bassano club. Do you know him?
MD: Yes, his name is Moussa Bamba. I actually already knew him from Mali and we obviously became closer during my brief stay in Bassano. We keep in touch and chat frequently. We are the same age and I really hope that we will both play for the Mali National Team together in the future. I think we would have a great team!
PI: What is your long-term goal in basketball? To play in the NBA? To play in the Euroleague?
MD: Right now, my goal is simply to become a professional basketball player. Obviously playing in the NBA is the ultimate dream for anyone who plays basketball but I would love to play in the Euroleague, too. Also, it would be very important for me to be able to play for the Mali National Team in the future. I take great pride in the idea of representing and playing for my country.