Men's Basketball

Q&A With Alassane Kouyate

Feb. 10, 2005

Q: Where is Mali located in Africa and how long have you been in the United States?
A: Mali is located in Western Africa near the Ivory Coast and Senegal. I've been living here since 1999, so about six years.

Q: Leaving home must have been a very difficult decision for you and your family. What were some of the reasons that made you decided to come to the United States?
A: It was a very, very difficult decision to leave Mali and to leave home, but you know what, it was something I wanted to do. When I was younger I wanted to come to the United States really badly, so when the opportunity came about, I took it even though my father wasn't happy about it. He thought I was too young while my mom was very supportive of me.

Q: Looking back on it, were you old enough to come to the United States?
A: I don't think so because I was only 16 at the time. It was tough. My dad was right, but I did really well when I got over here. I had a host family and went to high school so that really helped me out.

Q: What was the biggest adjustment for you in coming to a new country? What did you do to cope with your new surroundings?
A: I would say the language was the biggest problem. When I got here I didn't know any English. All I knew was `Hi', `How are you' and `I don't understand English'. I came here and two months later I went straight to high school. I didn't go to any language classes or anything before. For the first two or three months school was very tough.

Q: You are currently in the process of rehabbing your knee. What have you been doing to get yourself back in shape and how much progress has the knee made?
A: I feel pretty good right now. A couple of weeks ago I felt like my knee wasn't getting any better, but now it's feeling good. Right now I'm doing more treatment stuff like icing and electronic therapy.

Q: When you return, what do you see your role on this team as being?
A: I'd like to come in and grab some rebounds. I'm going to put a body on people and box out, and either get rebounds or give my teammates a chance to grab them. I want to play hard and when I come back I'm going to give 100% to the team.

Q: Obviously all the time away from the court must be a little heavy on you mentally. How do you stay so upbeat during the games?
A: I have a team mentality. This team is my team so I'm going to stay supportive. I'm always encouraging the guys and I feel part of the team. I'm going to support the team no matter what happens. I'm hurt, I can't control that, but I can control my feelings towards my teammates.

Q: Several major colleges were recruiting you including Wisconsin, Kansas State, etc. How did you decide on UMass?
A: Pretty much the coaching staff was the deciding factor. I felt very good after my first visit. I left here and said `that's it, this is where I want to go'. I felt good about the program and that I could come here, work on my game, and get better.

Q: How does Amherst differ from the other places you've and been?
A: I'm used to living in the big city. I was born in the capital so all this countryside is a big difference. It's also a lot colder here. Ohio was pretty much the same thing, but it's a little colder here.

Q: Obviously no one expected you to beat UConn, yet the team pulled off the 61-59 win. What was the biggest key to victory and what was the team's mind set going into the game?
A: For the UConn game, everybody was pumped. We all thought we could win the game. We were playing on national TV and we knew even if we lost, we were going to keep it close. We can beat any team in this country if we play like we did against UConn.

Q: What does this team need to do in order to win games consistently?
A: I think we need to play better defense. Offensively, we've got great players, great shooters and great one-on-one players, but our defense is a little weak at times. In order for us to win a lot of games, we need to remain focused on defense.

Q: Rashaun Feeeman and Anthony Anderson get most of the attention from opponent defenses. Who on this team do you feel is ready to step up and be an impact player during the conference schedule?
A: Artie Bowers and Maurice Maxwell can definitely provide offense along with Stephane Lasme. Stephane is also a good defensive player. Once Stephane puts all parts of his game together, offensively and defensively, he will step up and play very, very well for us.

Q: What are you majoring in here at UMass and what do you see yourself doing once you graduate?
A: I'm in the School of Management with a focus in hotel and tourist management. I think that's something that will be good for me in the future because I speak several different languages. I'm focusing on school right now while rehabbing my knee.

Q: With all the mentoring you do for the younger players, have you ever thought of getting in to coaching? What do you like and dislike about coaching?
A: I can see myself being a coach. I love basketball and I always want to be around it. The thing I don't like is that coaches sometimes don't get credit. Coaches work really hard and then when a team loses people will say "Oh it's the coaches fault." All the losses or the bad things that happen are not all on the coach. The coach can't go out on the court and play, he can just give advice. People don't see all the effort when things aren't going well.

Q: If I asked a friend to describe you, what do you think he or she would tell me?
A: I would think they would say that I'm friendly and I'm always smiling. I like too goof around sometimes, but when it comes to school or work I can be very serious. Over all, I'm very friendly and I like to joke around.

Q: When did you first start playing basketball?
A: Not until I was 13. Soccer is the big thing over in Mali and that was my main sport growing up. When I was 15, I really started getting good at it. I started growing a lot when I was 14 and I think that's what caused a lot of my knee problems.

Q: You have a twin sister. What was it like growing up as a twin?
A: That was fun. I used to fight with my twin sister all the time, but now she loves me and I love her to death. Now we're very, very close. She lives in Paris, France right now. It was crazy growing up because I come from a big family. I have three brothers and four sisters. My oldest brother is about 40 now and my sister and I are the youngest at 21. I love being from a big family and hope to have one myself some day, although not eight kids, maybe three or four.




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