Tide Signee Honored

In his brief two-year career at Bevill State Community College in Sumiton, Jean Felix Boussiengue scored 40 or more points six times and 30 or more points nine times. "Scoring always comes easy to me," said the 6-foot-7, 210-pound wing player in a matter-of-fact tone that belies both his personality and his approach to the game of basketball. "Honestly, I don't want to brag, but it was easy for me. I was comfortable."

His coach, Chris Traywick, agreed.

"It's been almost boring for him," he said. "He's very, very skilled. If you write down all the qualities you would want a player to have, he's got every one of them."

At the top of the list is a drive and desire to be the best. Jean Felix Boussiengue said he prefers being called by his middle name–the name actually listed as his surname in the statistics on junior college Web sites–and grew up in Congo Brazzaville, Africa. He played sports as a child, but his first love wasn't basketball.

"My first sport was soccer," he said. "I started playing basketball when I was 7 and I was playing both."

His ability in basketball has led him across the world as he followed his dream from Africa to France to the United States and finally to The University of Alabama. He is currently enrolled in Tuscaloosa and will play basketball this winter.

For his efforts at Bevill State this past season, he was named the Alabama Sports Writers Association's Junior College Athlete of the Year. He will be presented with the award at the annual banquet Sunday night in Prattville.

"He is a super, super young man," Traywick said. "He has no idea how talented he is. He is very skilled, an extremely hard worker, very responsible, very humble."

Felix described the style of basketball in Africa as "exciting and physical and quick and tough."

By the time he reached high school age, he moved to France to live with his uncle so he could play a better brand of basketball. While it may not have been at the same level as basketball in America, Felix had an advantage over other basketball players his age by playing with an all-star team that was comprised of much older players.

"He was the little kid," Traywick said. "He played in the toughest league over there."

He made his way to America, entering this country in Mobile at the invitation of coaches who wanted to see him play against American competition. He made his way to Birmingham, enrolling at Central Park Christian. But his impressive high school performance almost went unnoticed and his dream of one day playing in the National Basketball Association almost died prematurely.

"I didn't see him play," Traywick said. "A guy said I needed to take him. He said just work him out and see what you think. The rest is history."

At Bevill, he earned National Junior College Athletic Association honorable mention All-America status both his freshman and sophomore seasons. This past year, he averaged 18.2 points and 8.2 rebounds by shooting 44 percent from the field, 34.5 percent from the 3-point line and 69.8 percent from the free-throw line.

If he didn't have the attention of major college recruiters, he grabbed it one January night against Wallace-Hanceville when he scored 45 points, hitting 7-of-10 3-pointers, and pulled down 18 rebounds.

"Some of my tendencies are like Michael Jordan," he said. "I can play outside or down low, depending on what the game looks like. I can do a little of everything.

"I had injuries, so I felt like I had a good season. I wasn't really surprised."

He broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot in the final week of the regular season and a bone spur on his right foot, but Traywick expects his star to make an immediate contribution at Alabama.

"I think he's an impact player," Traywick said. "For all junior college players, it's still a huge transition. It's a different game, a different style of game, but I think he'll do fine."

The only player in Bevill State history to ever earn NJCAA National Player of the Week honors has made an impact everywhere he has gone. He doesn't expect that to change just because he's playing in the Southeastern Conference next season.

"My biggest transition is meeting new people," he said, "but I think my game style will be the same. It's a big challenge but I think I'm ready for it. I'll probably need to work on a couple of things, but I don' t care to play anywhere else in the world. I just want to play my game."

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