Mutombo speaks on basketball, life

By the

September 6, 2001

Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo. He’s a man with seven names, but two missions: basketball and service.

Mutombo, a former Georgetown big-man and current member of the NBA’s Philadelphia ‘76ers, spoke yesterday in Gaston Hall on both his basketball career and his devotion to helping the poverty-stricken citizens of his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

After thanking former head coach John Thompson and former team trainer Mary Fenlon, Mutombo said he owes his personal development to the coaching staff at Georgetown during his years on the team from 1988-1991.

“I cannot say enough about what a good coaching staff can do for a person,” he said. “[The Georgetown staff] can develop talent and personal philosophy that will guide lives for years to come. Today, Coach [Craig] Esherick is creating his own tradition of training and nurturing students.”

With Coach Esherick and the basketball team in attendance, he explained that the life of a Georgetown basketball player was not, and is not, as simple as it may seem.

“We worked very hard on and off the court, and we were held to a standard of excellence,” said the 7-foot-2-inch Mutombo, who holds Georgetown’s record for career field goal percentage (.643) as well as the individual game records for most defensive rebounds (18) and offensive rebounds (11). He is also ranks third all-time in blocks, averaging 3.68 per game during his college career. But he wasn’t always as spectacular.

“I was a nobody freshman and sophomore year. I don’t even know if I had my name on my jersey,” he said. However, by working out in McDonough during the summers with fellow Hoya stars Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, he developed into an NBA prospect. In turn, said Mutombo, he has passed on his know-how to other Georgetown players now in the NBA, such Jahidi White of the Wizards and Othella Harrington of the Knicks.

Regarding his trip to the NBA Finals this year, as well as his league-leading rebound average and All-Star selection, Mutombo deferred most praise to his teammates.

“I was playing with broken fingers. [Allen Iverson] had a broken ankle. We just came together and played with heart. We just went out and kicked everybody’s butt,” Mutombo said.

But above all, he continues to owe his success to the Hoya coaching staff.

“I want to thank them for helping us become great members of society,” he said.

As founder of the Dikembe Mutombo foundation, the All-Star has secured millions of dollars for his hometown of Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC. Before Mutombo and his foundation helped establish a $14 million hospital in the city, Kinshasa had not seen a new health care facility in over 40 years.

“Ten million people [in the Congo] need medical care desperately,” Mutombo said. “We are hoping that [the hospital] will be an inspiration.”

Ewing donated $100,000 to the foundation just two weeks ago, while Mourning has given $50,000. Mutombo himself has supported the hospital project with $3.5 million.

“Building the hospital took time and commitment,” he said. “The foundation was created from a special heart. I didn’t do it for publicity.”

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