Here Soumare talks to the Bear Insider about rehabbing her knee, her long road to Cal, and what she misses most about Paris.
Q: Bonjour Ami!
A: Bonjour. [sees Media Guide] Hey, is that ? Can I see it? I want to see if they got things right.
Q: It says you wanted to be an accountant. Is that still true?
A: I dont really know what I want to do. I wanted to be an accountant when I was little just because my dad was an accountant.
Q: Youre from Paris. I spent a month there two summers ago and loved it. Do you
A: Oh yeah. I miss the food and the family gatherings and I grew up there so I have a lot of friends there still.
Q: But youve been away from Paris awhile now, right? You were in Utah before
coming to Cal.
A: Ive been away even longer than that, because I played as a junior in the south of France. This was while I was still in high school. We have these centers all over France, like 12, where they develop young players. My first year, we had the best team of all these centers.
Q: What brought you to Utah?
A: I had a contact with Valparaiso University, but it didnt work out because I didnt have all the Division I requirements in place, so one of the coaches told me I could go to [Dixie State JC] for two years first. Then once I was [in the U.S.], other opportunities became available, like Indiana and Cal.
Q: So why Cal?
A: I think since when I was young in France, I always had the California dream. So when I had the opportunity And academically, Cal is one of the top universities.
Q: How is it working out so far?
A: Its kind of hard for me, because I had hard classes. I was taking econ, a business class, and one of the college writing classes. And I had to rehab my knee at the same time, so its like oooooh!
Q: We see you out there working on your shot and in practices. How far away are you
from actually seeing some playing time?
A: I tore my ACL like a year ago, but what happened was that my recovery was kind of slow and my knee was still swelling a lot and I didnt have my extension. So this summer, I had to have scar tissue removed. So I had to have a second surgery, and that added rehab time. But now its getting stronger.
Q: Was it hard being on the bench, knowing you couldnt get into a game?
A: It is so hard. It was hard last season, but then it got better because I was looking forward to this season. But now this season, I still couldnt play, so its been difficult.
Q: Whats the strongest part of your game?
A: I used to be a more of a defensive player, because I had a lot of [defensive-minded] coaches while I was in France. But Ive expanded my game in terms of shooting, because while you are hurt, all you can do is shoot the ball. One of my assistant coaches last year really helped me a lot.
Q: Are you a strong rebounder? Do you block shots?
A: I dont really block shots because when I came [to Utah] I was trying to block shots too much, and I got into foul trouble a lot. So I decided, "Forget this." But I can rebound a lot, because even against someone bigger and taller than me, I can hold my position and just go get the ball.
Q: What do you like to do outside of basketball?
A: I love computers! I love everything about them! I like programming, web design, I love that. I also like piano.
Q: Have you played for a long time?
A: Piano? I had never played before in my life, never, until last year, when I took a class for the year, and now I play everyday. Yeah, I just love it! Now I play at home; I have a keyboard. Im awful though! Im the only one who likes my playing. So I just put on my headphones and just play and enjoy myself.
Q: Do you live with other members of the team?
A: No. I live off campus with one roommate, but we barely see each other. I grew up with six brothers, and I was the only girl, so I always had my own room, my own bathroom. Im not big on sharing [laughs].
Q: Have you found any good French food around here?
A: The French restaurants, theyre so expensive here. But at the Berkeley Bowl, I found some French foods, even French cheeses that have been imported, so I was pretty happy.
Q: When I was in Paris, my French friends thought that Id be too scared to eat
French cheeses, but I loved them. So much flavor
A: Yes, its stinky, but its gooooood Mmmmmm. I really miss it. Every morning when I wake up, Im like, "Can somebody bring me a baguette? A hot baguette from the bakery?"
Q: Any other adjustments youve had to make? You dont seem to have any
language issues in terms of English.
A: No. Its just sometime if theres a big literature book to read and there are words that Im not used to, then I have to get the dictionary. But I guess a lot of Americans would have to do that too. But its not bad.
Q: Someone mentioned to me, "Ami, she speaks her mind. You dont have to
guess what shes thinking."
A: [Laughs] I think its because Im so French, and Im also from Africa too, from Mali. And I really love themMali and Franceand Im not a big fan of American politics, so maybe thats why But Im also the kind of person who likes if you have something to tell me, just come and tell me.
Q: Have you felt any anti-French sentiment here?
A: Actually, a lot of times Ive heard, "French people are rude, French people dont like Americans " Ive heard this a lot. OK, if thats what you think, thats great, but I dont think you can generalize. If you have a bad experience Ive had some bad experiences in America, but I wont say I hate this country. Its just specific people or this situation, but I dont generalize.
Q: Any places here in the U.S. youd like to visit?
A: Im just so focused on basketball right now that I havent had time to go see whats going on around. Like, Alcatraz, in France, we saw it in movies a lot with prisoners and stuff, and I havent had a chance to see it yet.
Q: Anything else youd like to say?
A: I love my team, thats the best thing about being here.
Q: Merci, Ami.
A: One last thing, the next time you go to France, can you bring back some French chocolate for me? Thank you!
Aminata Soumare and the Bears return home after a three-game road trip to take on the L.A. schools this weekend. The USC Trojans will visit on Thursday, 7 p.m., while the UCLA Bruins will challenge the Bears on Saturday at 3 p.m. Both games will be at Haas Pavilion, with the UCLA game being broadcast on FOX Sports Net (check local listings).
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