|Author's Note: Baru is still learning to speak English so the transcript is being provided word-for-word to avoid losing meaning in translation.|
AY-jie (Rhymes with "day pie.")
Tell me where your recruitment stands right now.
Really, the thing about it, I don't know. They are just recruiting me, they just send me letter, they call me. I didn't make my decision yet.
Sure, but do you have a list of schools you are interested in?
Which schools are contacting you the most right now?
I can say Maryland, Virginia Tech, I don't know, Michigan, Texas.
Are there any other schools in this area?
I think sometimes maybe Richmond, I think UVa.
Any schools in North Carolina?
Mmmmmmmmmmmm? I think they called one day and they talked to my Dad, but I don't know anything about it. I didn't ask him about it.
Do you have a time frame for a decision?
I don't know yet. After the month of June I will sit by myself and try to think about what college I will go to.
How long have you been in the United States?
A year and a half.
Wow, did you speak English before you came?
You speak really well for only having been here a year and a half.
How did you pick it up so quickly?
I'm working on that. I really started. I really, really like book, and I keep working on that.
How much basketball had you played before coming to the United States?
Mmmmmmmmm? I can say I played a lot, but I didn't have a lot of practice. I have a lot of practice here. Maybe I prove my game here.
And where are you from originally?
How is the basketball different here - aside from there being more opportunities — in terms of the game? Is it different than what you have played prior?
Over there we play most like physics — physics, contact.
Yeah, physical. Here, I feel like it is most like jump shots, running the court. Here it is like jump shots, pick, screen, roll to the basket - everything like that.
That reminds me, I overheard part of a conversation you were having with an official at the Tournament of Champions over Memorial Day Weekend in North Carolina. You had just been called for a foul and after the free throws, as you were running down the court, you said to the official, 'That's a woman's foul' What did you mean by that?
What did you mean by that?
Uh, 'cause that wasn't really a foul. That wasn't like a man foul's a man. If somebody foul him, that wasn't like a really foul. That was just a touch.
So that is what you were saying in that it is a physical game in the Ivory Coast.
Why did you make the decision to leave your home country to play basketball in the United States?
When I was playing with my high school team, one of the presidents told me that if I keep playing hard it will do something for me, like go somewhere if I really want to play basketball, if I like to play basketball. But before that I also have good grades — that's what he told me. I said OK, that is no problem. I will keep playing hard because I want to go somewhere to play basketball. They wanted to see if I could play for the national team under 18, and they selected me to come practice. I wanted to practice and they said I didn't have to go because I already made something for you here (in the U.S.) to play basketball. I said, 'OK, but I have to talk to my Mom.' They said, 'OK,' and I was sitting there. She said, 'Who is going to take care of him?' and my uncle tell me he will take care of me if I go over there. That's why I came here.
Who was the person who told you about the opportunity to play in the United States?
That was a family thing. That's like the federation of my country. That's the federation of my country.
They look for basketball players to play in the United States?
They look for basketball players to play in the United States, but first of all they look to see if you have good size, if you are real tall, you are young, and you can develop your game and at the same time be a good student, that's what they look for.
That's a big decision to leave your country to go to another country where you don't speak the language and there is a cultural difference. Was that that a tough decision for you?
For me? I can't say it was a tough decision. I was young so I was, 'Yeah, yeah, I want to go.' My mother, she was trying to figure out everything, every problem I would get over there. Everything, she trying to see what is her son will be over there if he goes if he doesn't have me, doesn't know anybody, so what is he going to be over there she is trying to see. I was like, 'Yeah, I won't go to the United States, just play basketball. That's OK, I will go to school, I won't play basketball. That's it.
So your mother is still in Ivory Coast?
Yeah, she is still in Ivory Coast.
It's possible to be very intelligent and learn things in your native language, but to learn all school subjects in the United States, you first have to learn English. How difficult has that been?
Mmmmmm, that was difficult. That was difficult. Sometimes I just like try to figure out how did I — I'm surprised sometimes that I can speak English than some of my French over there. Sometimes we can be on the phone and I can talk to my Mom and start speaking English. I'm confused, and she's like, 'Hey, we talk French,' so I'm like, 'Oh, sorry Mom.' So sometimes that is really difficult for me 'cause when I came here, the family where I am, their son make me read lot book. So in the summer I was reading lotta book.
So is the French that you speak, is that just like the French that is spoken in France, or is it a different dialect?
It is the same French they speak in France, the same French everywhere. It's my native language.
Do you know any other African languages or dialects?
The ethnic, I know nothing. I don't want to know. My mother speak the ethnic with some of her parents, but I don't want to know. I'm not interested to know.
What course of study are you interested in taking in college?
Math, computer, and export-imports trade.
Is it safe to assume that you want to play in the NBA one day?
Yes, I really want to.
When your basketball career comes to an end one day, what would you like to do?
I will do what I'm supposed to do—what I will learn in school, college, after my degree, everything. If I make the NBA before I get my degree, I will do my best to maybe come back and get my degree and go do whatever I want after I finish the NBA. Maybe I can make it to the NBA and I can get hurt and they won't take me again. So I have to go to school. I'm smart. I can finish my school and maybe go work somewhere, go to my country and work or stay here and work on the computer or maybe the import-exports between the USA and my country, something like that.
Tell me about the family you are staying with. You mentioned that your uncle would take care of you in the United States.
He was talking about he would come see me here 'cause she can't come see me here. We talk every time I am in contact with my family.
How did you decide which family you would stay with? Who set that up?
I didn't decide because we were playing AAU. When I came here we played AAU and there was one kid saw me and his parents saw me and said, 'I really like this kid.' That's what you mean by like I didn't make the decision. I will just let him say if he is a really good kid. I think maybe two weeks ago they told me after they called his parents come to me and say, 'I want to meet you. What are you doing? Where you live?' Everything.
Where I was living, that wasn't like a real somewhere I can stay after practice, I can go home really quick, take a shower, eat, come back go to practice or maybe some books for reading. What he told me, he say, 'OK, you can come live in our house,' and that was surprising. At the same time, that was scary too. I don't know them, they don't know me. I have to know somebody again, someone who is not my family, is not my parents. I have to adjust with them. Something I do with my Mom, I can't do with them so maybe they will not like it. That was really hard—the first week, the first month, that was hard, but after that I just say the way I can put myself into a good condition and they will keep liking me.
How long ago did this occur?
A year now.
Who is the other player's family you are staying with?
Pat Branin and Timothy Branin. That's their son.
What is the biggest cultural difference that you have had to adjust to in the United States?
Nothing to do with basketball, just interacting with people.
Mmmmmmmm, I'm not a talkative guy. Yeah, I really not. First of all, I didn't have the language, and I like to stay just by myself, so I really didn't go to someone and say, 'Hey. How are you doing?' I wasn't like that. I just stay in my room, and they didn't like me to stay in my room. They just call me, 'Come stay in the living room. We will talk together.' Something like that. I don't used to. They make me a little bit understand why I come stay in the living room, because it make my English really better.
So were you staying with another family prior to this family?
Yes, I was staying with my AAU coach.
Who takes your recruiting phone calls?
Mmmmmmmmmm, that's my father. ... Yes, that's my father, the family where I am staying. He just take the call.