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Blocking shots in the line of duty

East Carolina's Moussa Badiane (25) blocks the shot of Oregon State's Lamar Hurd (1) during the second half of their BCA Invitational game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2004, at the RBC Center in Raleigh. Badiane scored 13 points and blocked 5 shots in the game, which the Pirates won 64-62. (AP Photo/ Karl DeBlaker)

AP Sports Writer

GREENVILLE — Moussa Badiane came to East Carolina with a basic understanding of English, very limited offensive skills and an uncanny ability to block shots.

Four years later, the Frenchman understands almost everything his teammates say — even their slang — and confidently makes mid-range jumpers. His defensive prowess has improved, too, and now he's only two blocks away from breaking the Conference USA record.

Former Cincinnati star Kenyon Martin, now with the Denver Nuggets, set the previous mark of 292 from 1997-2000. Badiane has 291 heading into Saturday's game against Charlotte.

``It was never a goal of mine,'' Badiane said. ``It just kind of happened that way.''

Badiane's next opportunity to become C-USA's all-time shot-blocking master will come Saturday when the Pirates host formidable in-state rival Charlotte.

A native of Les Ulis, France, about 90 minutes from Paris, Badiane picked up basketball late in life, and he's only played competitively about six years. He averaged 14 points for a junior club team and chose to come to the United States instead of turning pro in Europe.

His brother, Pape, who now plays professionally overseas, had been recruited by East Carolina, so Moussa knew about the school when he decided to attend. When he arrived, he had little trouble following the instructions of his coaches, but it was different with the other players.

``He didn't know hardly anything we were saying,'' Pirates forward Corey Rouse said. ``It was pretty funny, we just picked on him about what he didn't know.''

Badiane took the ribbing good-naturedly, and soon learned to follow the locker room banter. Now, all the jokes aren't on him.

``He picks on everybody else,'' Rouse said.

On the court, Badiane is one of the few bright spots in what has become another forgettable year for East Carolina (6-13, 1-6 Conference USA), which has lost 11 of the past 13 games. He averages 12.2 points and 7.5 rebounds — both career highs — while adding 2.8 blocks.

The lanky, 6-foot-10 center closed in on Martin's record with three swat-aways against Saint Louis on Wednesday night as the Pirates snapped a six-game losing streak.

``He's always been a very good shot blocker,'' coach Bill Herrion said. ``He just has an ability to do that, and he came here with it. He's always been a guy who comes in the gym and works hard every day, and he's been a joy to coach for four years.''

Badiane might get a chance to keep playing after college. Even without eye-popping statistics, he has been on the ``must-see'' list for NBA teams almost from the beginning, drawing scouts to Greenville to see his progress firsthand.

``He's a defensive player right now,'' said Ryan Blake, assistant director of scouting for the NBA. ``He does have a lot of work to do, in terms of making it to the next level. However, he does have a lot of intriguing skills that makes us keep going to watch him play.''

Because of his background, Badiane isn't obsessed with the NBA like many of his peers. He can follow his brother's footsteps in Europe, or he can simply return home and use his degree.

He expects to graduate in May, and the business administration major plans to run his own company someday.

``If I get to play in the NBA, that's great,'' Badiane said. ``But if not, I'm not going to worry about it.''

Badiane has the same low-key attitude about breaking the record.

``It's not something I'll really worry about now,'' he said. ``Maybe when my career is over, I will look back and enjoy it. Right now, I just want to do what I can do help our team start winning.

``This is my last year. I want to go out a winner.''

02/23/07 10:56 AM

©2005 The Associated Press and All rights rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. contributed to this report.


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