You have just resumed your studies following the announcement of your retirement as a professional basketball player.
You who were used to go back to training in August, in what state of mind are you and what motivated your decision?
For the moment everything is fine. I don’t realize it yet even if it was not a surprise. My conversion project I started several years ago, even before my professional basketball career. It is something I have always thought about.
My professional situation of these last years, especially my injury in Levallois, made me re-launch the project more deeply.
So I always knew that this moment would come and I prepared myself accordingly.
But I was quite lucky, especially because I never stopped thinking about this project and studying, which today makes the transition much easier.
To come back to the question, everything is going very well, my morale is good, I took my classes and I don’t miss basketball too much (laughs).
Speaking of basketball, you had the opportunity to play in several countries. What will you remember from your career in France? Is there a memory that would take precedence over the others?
The year I think about is my year in Antibes. I had just spent three years in Le Mans and the third year didn’t go as well as I expected with a lot of difficulties including an injury.
At that time, I wanted to stop but my family and I agreed that it was not the right time. They always told me that the transition to change and reconversion had to be done in a more stable, calmer professional environment.
So that’s when I arrived in Antibes and as you can imagine, morale was not very good. I really wanted to stop and I could not digest what had happened in Le Mans the previous season.
But I was lucky enough to find a good group that really gave me confidence in my game. There were players like Tim Blue and Vince Samford who became friends. The group as a whole was very good and today we are almost all still in touch.
Coach Julien Espinosa also gave me a lot of confidence in myself, especially in my game. Before him, all the coaches were mainly working on the defensive aspects of my basketball and Julien pushed me to get out of my comfort zone by working on the offensive part as well.
Both personally and professionally, it was a pivotal year and finally this season gave me the desire and confidence to postpone my plans to change careers and continue playing for another five years. I am very grateful for what this year has brought me, both personally and professionally!
So it was a rich year, both on a human and sporting level!
You have known many clubs and lived in many teams. Do you think you will miss this way of life?
I don’t know… if I had to give you one aspect of this way of life that I would miss, I would say that it’s the closeness we have with our teammates.
The different exchanges we can have, the time spent in the locker room but also the joys and pains we can share throughout the season.
My last season at Portel is a perfect example. We were last, nobody believed in it, between the defeats, the injuries, the covid… And in spite of that, we go to Paris with 5 hopes, we win and the dynamic has completely changed. After that, we go to Strasbourg, which is top 4, without our post 4 and we play a hopeful who had not yet played of the season and we win!
Then, we win six games out of seven and the season is completely revived and we start sharing moments that were simply incredible.
It’s the same for the relationship you can have with certain coaches. I arrived in Portel in November and I didn’t know Eric Girard but there is a relationship that was created over the months and today we still exchange regularly.
I’m really going to miss all that, the relationships with the groups, players and staff included! And there were others! For example my first two years in Le Mans, we also had a great group and I keep a lot of good memories!
Indeed, human relations are a very important part of professional sport.
But if I’m not mistaken, you will be able to find that very quickly with the N2 of Levallois, right ?
Yes it’s true, it’s a very long story (laughs). It was not planned at all, at the beginning I only wanted to devote myself to my studies because I knew that my MBA (Master of business and administration) was going to be a big challenge and that I was not going to have a lot of time to give to basketball.
It’s a lot of work, with long days and often conferences on weekends. Nevertheless, the club of Levallois had a nice project and they understood my situation, as well as my family.
For me, it is an honor and I know that I am lucky to be able to play at this level today in a team that has a lot of ambition.
Perhaps a new challenge that will be added to your already busy year.
So you’re going back to school but can you tell us more about what motivated this choice?
Initially in 2017, when I wanted to quit the first time, I wanted to go back to the US to work in investment banking, private equity or venture capital. But I wasn’t in a very good frame of mind as I explained earlier.
It was in 2019, after my injury, that I talked a lot with my friends who did the same course and decided on the MBA. It is this training that seemed to me to be the best springboard to start my post-career.
I finally chose the MBA offered by HEC.
Several criteria weighed in the balance, such as the fact that I am based in Colombes and that the HEC MBA is one of the ten best MBA programs in the world.
They also have a very important network. For example, this week, the CEO of Peugeot was present and next week the CEO of Danone is coming to give a conference.
My family and I were convinced that this was the best option for me. It will allow me to discover the business world and to evolve within an invaluable network.
It was through this network that I met Jacques Bossuge, a former rugby player and HEC alumni, whom I would like to thank. He helped me in my choice and reassured me about the relevance of this program.
There are many specialties, such as entrepreneurship.
Finally, the people who come to give us conferences and build our network are entrepreneurs from various sectors, which will allow me to discover many of them.
The goal today is to define what skills I have acquired during my career and how to use them when I set up my own business or become an employee.
Of course, this MBA will also allow me to improve and learn new things.
It’s a big challenge but you seem quite serene when you start this program. Do you think that the fact that you have been studying all your career has something to do with it?
Yes I think so, I’ve always been in the habit of studying during my career.
It started of course in the United States. I went to Villanova College where I got the equivalent of a 4-year degree in finance and international business.
In fact, at Villanova, we were lucky enough to have a very active alumni network, with a lot of exchange and especially advice for students who wanted to avoid difficulties they might have already encountered, for example.
I think I have always had a strong taste for studies and once in France, I always wanted to continue this training process in order not to lose the rhythm I had imposed on myself at the beginning of my career.
But beware, it wasn’t always easy! I also started a lot of certifications that I never finished, like the year of the European Cup with Le Mans. Between all the travelling and the fatigue, it was extremely hard to keep the rhythm and succeed in training.
With hindsight, the younger you get used to it, the easier it is to train during your career. I think this is also the chance I had.
Difficult at times but far from impossible.
You were talking about the specific skills that a basketball player develops during his career… Do you think it’s really the case ?
Yes, of course!
Already, on stress management alone, we start with a real advantage.
To give you an example, our first two weeks at HEC are quite busy in terms of work density and yet, as a professional athlete, I can handle these stressful situations much better than students from other sectors.
We also find it easier to set goals and achieve them.
For example, I realized that I knew nothing about data science.
So I spent my summer learning about it so I would be comfortable when I started school.
I think we are also used to taking risks and therefore making mistakes.
It allows us to get ahead of situations and make decisions quickly without the fear of failure. This is far from being the case for everyone.
As athletes, we learn very quickly to define risk and make a decision.
That’s part of what allowed me to go back to school while taking care of my family.
It was a complicated decision that I don’t regret having made.
And of course they are not the only ones!
Today, basketball players develop dozens of different skills. Here is one more, we are used to prepare for a match, to scout an opponent… well it is quite the same when we have to prepare an interview. Before, we will scout our interlocutor to get closer to the best possible result.
Do you know where you would like to go from here?
I did have an idea.
Initially, I wanted to go into banking to do more specifically investment and then pivate equity.
But since I started my studies at HEC, I discovered consulting with companies like MC Kinsey or BCG which will allow me to discover different sectors such as the reduction of CO2 emissions by companies.
I also discovered the world of entrepreneurship, which made me have dozens of ideas in my head. So I decided to keep an open mind on these topics (laughs).
Each week, HEC presents us with different sectors. Next week it will be mainly finance and so on.
That’s why I decided to give myself time to meet everyone and think about what I want to do. I will make my decision around April when I am more advanced.
You do have a lot of choices, so we’ll have to come back to you in a few months to find out more (laughs).
Finally, would you have any advice for players who are still active and who would like to think about a career change?
For me, the most important thing is to start early!
The earlier you start, the more you create a routine and the more you accomplish.
Today, many companies are turning to athletes for the same reasons as mentioned earlier.
So you have to have confidence in yourself, but you have to remember that an athletic career is not forever, so you have to work hard to ensure the aftermath.
It is therefore very important that players train during their career. They should not forget that it is possible, that it is not insurmountable. Many players have achieved this, like Pape Philippe Amagou for example.
You also have to keep an open mind and be curious, learn about your environment, about what surrounds you.
For me, it was the new technological advances for example.
It is also important not to hesitate to communicate with players who have participated in the same kind of training. Through LinkedIn, I was able to connect with former athletes from the United States to Switzerland to France to Asia.
Communicating with these people has been very valuable in my training and retraining process.
Finally, and this is perhaps the most important thing for me, training throughout your career will bring you only positive things. It will allow you to keep your mind open and informed on many subjects, to have a rhythm during your days, to learn how to better manage your money, your health as well as your relationships with your entourage.
The list goes on and on but I would say that it allows you, as a player, to have a vision, a goal.
You will always be able to hold on to it when you will experience more complicated periods in your basketball career.
Mouphtaou, thank you for the time you gave us, as well as for your answers which, I hope, will echo with the players.
The SNB congratulates you on your career and wishes you much success in your new projects.
See you soon!