Friday, Oct. 31
It’s Halloween, and while many students may have a night of heavy partying planned, freshman Pat Ngongba most likely will take it easy.
Ngongba said he’s tired from a hectic schedule, so he’s just going to hang out with his friends this Friday night.
While most GW students also claim to be busy, they probably do not need as much rest as Ngongba does this weekend. That’s because Monday night is the first basketball game as a Colonial for this 6-7 forward from the Republic of Central Africa.
Although it’s only an exhibition game, Ngongba said he has been looking forward to Monday night for a long time. He was ineligible to play last year, so GW’s first game against Court Authority will be his debut.
“I just had to deal with it,” Ngongba said about sitting out last year. “I knew one day my time would come.”
Choosing the Colonial way
The 20-year-old Pat Ngongba came to the United States when he was 17 to attend high school at Calvert Hall in Baltimore, Md.
He said the hardest part of being in this country is that he misses his family. He said he gets to talk to them often, though.
In the Republic of Central Africa, French is the language spoken. Through classes, but mostly just from being here, Ngongba has learned English.
“I had to,” Ngongba said. “I live and study here.”
Ngongba said in addition to the two years spent playing for Calvert Hall, he learned a lot about American-style basketball from summer leagues and camps.
It was on one such summer league team that Ngongba met fellow Colonial Shawnta Rogers. He said it was one of the reasons he chose GW over other universities like Duke and Houston, which also had an interest in him.
“I knew he was coming here and I was excited,” Rogers said. “We’re good friends, and now we’re roommates.”
Ngongba said the other reason for wanting to play for GW was because he became interested in the program while in Baltimore.
“I saw a lot of GW games on TV,” he said.
Monday, Nov. 3
Ngongba tucks his head down and giggles, showing his genuinely bashful side. He is at the press conference following his first game. A reporter has just asked him about his chiseled muscles, the ones that make him look like he should be playing in the NBA.
“Have they always looked like that?”
“I don’t know,” Ngongba answers in a barely audible voice, smiling the entire time.
Ngongba has many reasons to smile.
His 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes against Court Authority come close to his stats at Calvert Hall. There he averaged 13.9 points, seven rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
“I was a bit nervous at first, but then I got going,” Ngongba said.
Ngongba was one-for-one from three-point range, and of his five attempted field goals, he missed only one.
At one point in the first half, when Ngongba blocked one of Court Authority’s shots, he hit the ball so hard that it shot into the bleachers. The crowd seemed impressed.
“He’s more aggressive, bigger and smarter,” Rogers said of the difference between Ngongba’s play tonight and how he remembers him from his Baltimore days.
“He loves the game of basketball,” head coach Mike Jarvis said. “He brings enthusiasm to the team. He’s going to have a great career here.”
Jarvis said he knew Ngongba would “be productive” and that Ngongba should get “all the praise and credit he deserves.”
Ngongba said he feels no pressure from expectations that may have been placed on him since last year.
“I’ve learned that if you do your work, you’ll be all right,” Ngongba said.
Although Ngongba did mention he’s particularly excited for the Maui Invitational, he said he looks forward to the whole season, from “the exhibition game to the end.”
He’ll need a lot of rest to stay strong through months of games, practice and classes. Even though some of his spare time will be spent hanging out with friends, watching movies and touring D.C., Ngongba said he’ll spend his free time “mostly sleeping.”