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23, 2006 - If there is one thing that Monarchs forward
Hamchétou Maïga knows well, it is international travel. She has spent
almost all of her adult life away from her native land, playing professional basketball
on just about every continent. These days, she finds herself in France for the
first time, playing for Cavigal Nice Sports. Nice... quite nice.
Born in Bamako, Mali, both Maïga's mother and aunt played on the National team of Mali for several years. In fitting tradition, the younger Maïga has been a member of the National team since 1994. She also has 15 brothers and sisters. Maïga ultimately came to the United States to play college ball at traditional women's powerhouse Old Dominion. In the summer of 2001 earned bachelors degree in information systems and was named to the Dean's List. The very next year, she was selected by the Monarchs 12th overall in the 2002 WNBA Draft.
More About... France
just completed four WNBA seasons, Maiga has established herself as a key reserve
in coach John Whisenant's system. She averages around 4.0 ppg and 2.0 rpg in 12
minutes per game, but is known more for the defensive role she plays off the bench.
Ranking seventh in the WNBA in steals per 40 minutes (2.4), she can guard pretty
much any one on the court straight up except the big centers and her contributions
to the club helped Sacramento to its first WNBA title last season.
As one might expect, there are significant differences between playing in the United States and in France. Though she is anythng but lazy, she misses the luxury of having a short distance between the gym and her apartment. Naturally, she also misses her Monarchs teammates and fans, her family and quality TV programs. Also, a testament to the professionalism of the WNBA, she also misses how well-organized everything is.
"I really miss the games we usually play when we travel," the former first round Draft pick siad. "We all get along so well. I miss playing the game Taboo with Ticha (Penicheiro) as my teammate because with my accent, she always guesses what I'm trying the correct answer. I also miss Kara (Lawson) taking all her time to explain things."
course, she wears her WNBA affilitation proudly, but is constantly asked how the
level of competition in the league in which she participates compares to the play
in the WNBA. But one thing she does like about France is the weather. Lucky for
her, she is getting to play in the south of France, and has gotten to see some
of the surrounding countryside.
"Nice is known for Cote d'azur and there are a lot of museums," she said. "Italy and Monaco are also just about 45 minutes driving."
She has also dabbled in a little bit of the country's rich culture and loves French cheeses, but admits that everytime she cooks, she usually prepares something she is more accustomed to from her own country. Being able to speak, read and write French fluently has made the adjustment that much easier.
Prior to selecting France as an offseason destination country, this MBA candidate played for Yaya Maria Breogan in Spain for the past three off-seasons. During the 2004-05 offseason, she averaged 14.5 ppg (45.2 FG%), 7.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.5 spg and 34.1 mpg, 15.5 ppg, while shooting 47.5% and averaged 7.1 rpg, 1.3 apg and 3.0 spg in the 2003-04 offseason and 19 ppg and 8.1 rpg in 2002-03.
She has also played either
club ball or nationally in many of the countries on the African continent, including
Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Ghana, Tunisia, Algeria, Kenya, Mali, Morocco,
Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. Before coming to play collegiately, she joined
Senegalese Champion, Dakar Club in 1997-98 and averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds,
eight assists and three steals per contest. She was named MVP of club play in
Northwestern Africa and MVP of the club league in Senegal. For all of her impressive
work, she was named "Queen of Basketball" in both Mali and Senegal.
Currently, her team is only 6-13 near the bottom of the LFB Standings, but Maiga has played in all 19 of her team's games, is second in scoring with 14.7 ppg and leads her squad in rebounding with 6.7 rpg and 42 steals.