It wasn’t long after this time last year when Roger Moute a Bidias put himself on the radar of Raptors 905. Based out of Los Angeles after going undrafted out of California in June, Moute a Bidias found his way into some workouts that have now become the stuff of Toronto Raptors legend. They are, after all, where The Bench Mob was forged, with the Raptors’ young core playing together regularly throughout the summer.
Moute a Bidias was there and, despite modest production over four years of college, made an impression. His length, anticipation, and overall defense all stood out, and the 905 would eventually invite him to training camp as a local tryout player. He’d make the team, too, but his season wouldn’t get to start for another three months – two days before the 905’s opener, Motue a Bidias suffered a knee sprain, ultimately leading him to be waived and then re-added to the roster when he healed.
“My rookie pro season was a learning experience,” he says from Houston, where he’s training regularly and watching brother Luc Mbah a Moute compete in the Western Conference Finals as a member of the Houston Rockets. “It was definitely a rollercoaster. Coming in, I felt great about my game, I felt confident. And then I came in and I got hurt. It was a new experience to me, having to sit out, and having to be at home and grind and try to come back healthy. I did my best to stay ready, I did my best to come back better than I was before, come back so that I wouldn’t miss a beat and be able to help the team.”
Disappointing though the abbreviation of his rookie year was, Moute a Bidias was still able to make an impression. He averaged 11.6 minutes over nine games, providing his trademark defense and helping the team push in transition. It was enough that he was even called in for four brief playoff appearances, and that the offseason presents itself to him as a pivotal one.
“I think it’s gonna be a great summer for me to set myself up for something good,” he says.”I’m pretty confident about myself, man. Obviously my injury kind of slowed things down, but I’m confident about myself, I’m confident about my game, so I feel like it’s gonna be good after this summer. It’s gonna be good for me and I’ll be able to showcase my game and put my name out there.”
The time off had another major impact on Moute a Bidias, too. This being the first time he’d ever sat injured, he gained some important perspective on life and basketball, perspective that affirmed how he tried to operate in twice becoming an All-Pac 12 Academic honourable mention. If he was going to be forced to sit out an extended period, there was no sense in wasting that time.
“When I was hurt and I realized, you know, our offseasons are long, and even during the year I find myself having a lot of spare time and a lot of free time when I’m not training or not at practice or playing games, and I realized hey man, I could take advantage of this time and do something valuable and help better myself on the personal development side,” he says.
At Cal, that meant a degree in interdisciplinary studies that included courses in developmental economics, computer science, and ICTD (information, communication, and technology for development), an opportunity to visit tech start-ups and meet CEOs in the Bay Area, and a thesis focused on how financial technologies can aid economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa (Moute a Bidias is from Cameroon). More recently, it meant a one-day internship on the Google campus in San Francisco as a part of the NBA’s Career Crossover program.
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) May 14, 2018
For the last few years, NBA players have had the opportunity to explore fields of interest to begin to prepare for their lives after basketball. Originally, Mbah a Moute was hoping to visit Snapchat, but an opportunity to spend a day at Google came up on relatively short notice and he jumped.
“You know, I jumped on the opportunity, because obviously, it’s Google. So I said hey, I’ll do it,” he says. “It was great, man. It was amazing. A great experience because, obviously like I said, I’m very, very interested in tech, having studied it, and having lived in the Bay Area a few miles away from Google, I always heard about it. So being able to see it from inside, meeting different people there, seeing the technologies that they’re working with and the technologies that they’ve created and how they’ve created it was a great experience, man.”
The highlight, for Moute a Bidias, was the chance to ride in a self-driving car. He also got the chance to try out Google’s virtual reality glasses, get a look at how consumer feedback is passed down and turned into actionable information for engineers, and participate in a workshop designed to help players translate their basketball skills to a different environment. The latter included tips on brand-building through Google, YouTube, and LinkedIn, necessities to network properly in 2018, especially in the tech realm.
We had a fantastic time during today's #NBACareerCrossover, sharing what it's like to work here with our new @NBA friends. Find your job match & apply online to become a Noogler: https://t.co/npJx0TLX8e pic.twitter.com/fkAxHxXShp
— Life at Google (@lifeatgoogle) May 11, 2018
“It’s definitely something I’m trying to set up. Meeting people, creating a network, developing skills, those are things I’m trying to do right now when I do have the spare time,” he says. “Whenever I’m done playing, or even while I’m playing, I can create some opportunities for myself. It doesn’t have to be necessarily work-wise, but investment wise, create some opportunities for myself that can help me set up a good post-career life.”
For now, these are longer-term considerations. Moute a Bidias intends to continue learning and networking in his downtime, even if his primary focus is on basketball. Personal and professional growth are not mutually exclusive endeavours, and while training and practicing take up a good deal of time, he’ll have an eye out for more opportunities like a day on the Google campus to help him prepare to make an impact outside of the game, too.
“Even as a college athlete, I’ve tried to be my best on the court and be my best off the court,” he says. “When I’m on the court, I’m trying to be the best player that I can be, and when I’m off the court, I’m trying to be the best Roger.”