Parlez vous basketball

Senior forward Vincent Ateba gets the ball passed to him by sophomore guard Skyler Bowlin in a game against Newman University.

Senior forward Vincent Ateba gets the ball passed to him by sophomore guard Skyler Bowlin in a game against Newman University.

Andrew Ford

If you have class with Vince Ateba, you’re more likely to see the 6-foot-4-inch senior forward than hear him. Ateba, won’t be the guy clamoring for attention in class or listing off his game stats.

Vincent, a native of Orleans, France, doesn’t need anyone to help him prove himself though. While adjusting to life stateside, he’s averaging nearly 30 minutes of playing time per game while grabbing 6.6 rebounds and 13.3 points. In last weekend’s losing effort against Nebraska-Omaha, he snatched eight defensive rebounds while totaling 12 for the night.

While he’s known as a competitor on the basketball court, he’s cool and collected everywhere else. If you ask him, he can’t remember the last time he got mad.

Before he starts a game, Vincent usually likes to get there early to shoot and stretch by himself while listening to Lil’ Wayne, 50 Cent or Jay-Z.

In fact, on the basketball court may just be the only place where Vincent breaks out of his shell.According to former MSSU basketball player Tony Webb, unless you know Vincent, he stays quiet. Despite that, Webb said Vincent is a competitor who any player would want around and though he doesn’t say much, Vincent always gets the job done.

“He’ll be more vocal in the game if he gets bumped on or gets fouled,” Webb said.

While Vincent speaks English well, he speaks softly with a distinct French accent. In certain occasions though, it’ll disappear.

“If you make him mad, he’ll sound just like a cold-blooded American,” Webb said.

If you talk to his girlfriend, she’ll tell you he’s the nicest guy in the world.

In fact, after they began dating, Beth Jones wondered when his true personality was going to come out. She knew that any basketball player, let alone one from more than 4,000 miles away good enough to play here would eventually have to have a cocky personality.

But, Vince didn’t.

Maybe she should have known the shy Ateba would stay the same. The first time she talked to Vincent it wasn’t in class, let alone a club, but was over Facebook.

When Vincent decided to get serious about playing professional basketball in high school he knew his path would probably involve moving to the U.S. and playing at the college level first.

If you ask Vince, he’ll tell you anyone in France that has the opportunity to move to the U.S. would say “Yes.” Ateba said this is mostly because the media and films shown in the rest of the world showcase the American lifestyle through the scope of Hollywood.

Far from the movie stars and Hollywood, Ateba’s first American experience was the small Carbondale suburb of Carterville.

Ateba arrived in September 2004 after getting offered a scholarship to John A. Logan College.

Ateba played all 29 games for the Volunteers, and averaged nearly 10 points a game his sophomore year. He was also second on the team in accuracy, making 56 percent of his shots from the field.

Though he grew up in what he considers a basketball family, Vincent’s father was a soccer man himself. Still, under the tutelage of his uncles, both were coaches, Vincent developed into a basketball junkie.

His passion for basketball began at age 9, when his childhood friend William Moreau decided to play basketball instead of soccer. This first push from Moreau was enough to get him started.

After his first year of organized basketball playing in the Poussin level (“chick” or “little bird” in English) on St. Jean de Braye, Vincent was moved up to the next age bracket a year early. He was hooked.

By his junior year of high school, Vincent was set on playing basketball stateside and began honing his English through more work in class and watching American films in English.

And the first movie that he popped in? The Samuel L. Jackson basketball film, Coach Carter. Of course.