Cover Story: Big man with a big vocabulary

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV)  The Bobcats get Bismack.  They say everybody's got a story, and probably the most fascinating story in this year's draft is about to come to Charlotte.

The Charlotte Bobcats are in a rebuilding year.  The front office has dismantled the team that reached the playoffs in 2010.

Thursday night, the franchise got a couple of quality young players in the  NBA draft.

The best player from the best college team in the country - point guard Kemba Walker, with the number nine pick.

And with the number seven pick - forward Bismack Biyombo.

Biyombo comes from a different world. About as far away from Charlotte as you can get.  He's from the heart of Africa, from the Congo.

And that's just where his story starts to get interesting.

Bismack turned pro when he hit his teens.

He's a big man with an incredible wingspan and a spectacular vernacular.  He knows half a dozen languages.

If you don't like basketball, this is still a remarkable personal story.  He's a breath of fresh air in a sport that could use some good P.R.

To give you an example, when kids at a community center asked him what's his hobby is, he told them:  Reading books.

It's a rollout the Bobcats have never tried before.

From a double-decker bus in Center City Friday the team let loose their two newest hires - to fans first before meeting the press.

The shorter one is Kemba Walker MVP of the Final Four.  And the big man Bismack Biyombo.

"I don't know too much I just watch his highlights like everybody else.. but he's pretty good. I'm excited to have him too," said Bobcats fan Eric Williams.

He seems to have come out of nowhere.  He caught scouts eye at the Hoops Summit in Portland where Bobcats new G.M. Rich Cho used to work.

"He's got an infectious personality," says Cho.  "I think the fans are going to love him. One thing you're going to see for sure he plays hard every single possession."

Hard is how life is where Biyombo hails from - the Democratic Republic of the Congo which runs along the equator in Africa.  Formerly Zaire, its citizens are among the poorest in the world.  The life expectancy is 44.

Despite that he's fluent in six languages and can rattle off "I love Charlotte" in all six.

Also impressive is Bismack's big hand and the man's wingspan:  7-feet-7 inches.

Bismack and Kemba Walker hit it off with kids of the Freedom School at Seigle Point Community Center after Friday's press conference.

When one asked Bismack what's his hobby is he won points with parents.  "Reading books," he said.

He's played in Spain, where he had a pro career;  left home at 16 to play in several Middle Eastern countries.

Now in America he's impressed the greatest player of all time.

"When Michael saw him work out on Wednesday he became really enamored by the upshot potential.. the long arms.. the athleticism.. being a great shot blocker," said Bobcats President Fred Whitfield.

Now he's living the American dream in Charlotte and making friends where he goes.

"My goal is to try to be the best person I can be."

Biyombo is the farthest thing from a typical high school or college basketball player coming out of the draft.  And probably the most dominant defensive player in this year's draft.

The Bobcats say he's going to make an immediate impact.  On offense, he's not as strong.

At the news conference one sportswriter asked him if he would move from a forward to center.. and he said,"I'm ready to learn."

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