Paul Eboua (Yaoundé, Cameroon, 2000)
fell in love with the game. His passion and hard work mentality made him overcome all the challenges in his path: from a 14-year-old skinny kid, to a professional player in Europe who now has the NBA Draft as his next step.
How did you start playing basketball?
I started playing basketball at 14 years old when I was at Makepe High School thanks to my friend Owen, who was very good at basketball. Since then, I only had basketball in my mind. During that times, I remember my parents giving me some money to buy some clothes for Christmas but I preferred to buy a ball, because I just wanted to spend my holidays playing basketball with my friends. It was then when I saw a really talented guy called Rocky, who was working out in a gym near my home; I watched him for hours and he gave me the opportunity to pass him the ball which made me so happy. After some days, he asked me to practice with him during the holidays, so I decided to spend my Christmas money buying another ball so we could have practice with two balls. I remember Rocky telling me that I was weak, and that's why I wanted to improve my body and show him that I could be better. Some months later, I was invited to the Luc Mbah Moute Camp in Yaoundé, and it was an amazing experience; however, I wasn’t chosen to play the All-Star Game there which made me sad but also gave me more motivation to be able to play in the All-Star in the next year. Then, I met the coach of the University of Douala, and he gave me the opportunity to work with him during some days, but back then I couldn’t practice every day since I had to go to school.
And then on 2015 you moved to Italy…
One day, the coach of the university introduced me to Angelo Destasio and Maurizio Balducci who were in Cameroon to see me; Maurizio, actually, talked with my family because he wanted to send me to Italy with Jordan Baheye. We knew then that it was the last time we would be in Cameroon until we become professional; and I didn't return home for five years, because I decided to stay there and prepare myself for the NBA Draft.
How has been your experience in Stellazzurra?
Stellazzurra is family and sacrifice and I was very lucky to have the chance to work with them. Everybody here work for a common goal, and if you are not willing to give up a lot you cannot be part of this place. They do a great job with young players, just look at me and how I changed since four years ago; if I could make it everybody can make it, but the mentality counts a lot. I have a great relationship with the staff here; Germano is a mentor for me, he helped me a lot during these years, he taught me how to change my mind and was near me all the time. I can’t also thank enough Paolo, Giacomo and Mario, these guys were very good for me.
What were the most difficult things to get used to at the beginning?
Communication was a bit difficult thing since I didn’t speak Italian and it took me a little bit of time to learn it and talk it fluently. About basketball, I always had NBA in my mind, and I did everything what coaching staff told me to do to improve myself; working extremely hard and being focused all the time to be successful. I know my goal and I will do everything it takes to reach it.
Last season you played in Serie A2 for Roseto Sharks, and this season, you made a big step moving to Pesaro in Serie A. What can you explain about these two seasons at the pro level?
Last season with Roseto was the first year that I started to trust more in myself, being my first time playing in front of a lot of support and energy, and it really motivated me. I could find playing time there, my spaces on the court and above all, I had the opportunity to play against pro players. In Roseto, we became a family, we were a really united group and I loved playing with all my teammates; especially with Brandon Sherrod who helped me a lot. After that season, Pesaro gave me the opportunity to join them to play in Serie A and I loved the idea to play there because they wanted to build a young team with players like Mussini, Miaschi, Drell… Everybody there was young and I was excited to be part of it. On September I thought it was the turning year for me. With Pesaro and with the help of Coach Perego and Coach Sacco, I improved a lot my shooting, my body, how to use it, how to play defense well and how to play in that league.
Your minutes and productivity for your team increased throughout the season. What was the key to earn this bigger importance on the team?
The key was responsibility and hard work. I did a lot of individual workout with Coach Calvini, and then, they trusted me, they gave me more responsibility and I tried to respond the best I could on the court.
You recently declared for the 2020 NBA Draft. What kind of NBA player do you think you can be?
I have the qualities of the modern NBA player. I’m 6’8 tall with a 7’2 wingspan, I can switch on defense, grab rebounds, sacrifice myself for my teammates... I could be a good rotation player and give solid contribution from the bench. I also like to look at Pascal Siakam for his athleticism and intelligence, and Kawhi Leonard for how he has improved on both ends of the floor, but especially for his defense.
Last year you made some pre-draft workouts for different NBA teams. What do you think you have improved the most since then?
Since last year I have improved the most how to read the game, how to anticipate and my athleticism. However, I still want to keep improving more my feel for the game, shooting ability and ball-handling.
Last February, Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam were selected to be All-Star starters. What does this fact mean for Cameroon?
They make our country proud, and it will be a huge impact since we never saw three African players playing at the same time on the court as NBA All-Star starters. It is kind of a dream for my country and for every young kid who dreams about playing in the NBA; it gives us the good message of ‘you can reach the top of the mountain, but you have to work hard to make it happen’. They didn’t get there by chance, they paid their price working extremely hard every day, and that’s the only way; this is the key and I’m ready, I’m looking forward to work as hard as I can until I reach my goal: the NBA.
Since his first contact with basketball,