by John Austen
He may be a prince back home, but he has the potential to be the king of the court at Concordia.
Réal Kitieu's grandfather was a king in his native Cameroon before an elected government was installed. This makes Réal the Prince of the region of Bamileke, a title he says is more honorific than anything else.
"I have to laugh when people bring that up," said Kitieu, a key member of the Stingers basketball team. "It's no big deal, really. I was born too late to really enjoy the privilege. It's something that people notice in my region, though."
At six foot nine and 235 pounds, it's hard not to notice Kitieu when he takes to the hardwood with his teammates. Now in his second full season with the Stingers, the 21-year-old centre has made everyone -- including professional scouts -- stand up and take notice of his skills, especially his shot-blocking ability.
Last Saturday, he blocked 12 shots in a game against the Bishop's Gaiters, equalling the record he set last year in his first game as a Stinger.
"Réal doesn't know how good he can be," said Stingers coach John Dore. "Right now, he's an up-and-down player. When he's on his game, he's tremendous. When he doesn't come to play, he can be very ordinary.
"I got a call from a scout with the New Jersey Nets asking about him last week," Dore continued. "I told the guy to phone back in a year and a half. That's when we'll see if he's realizing his true potential."
Kitieu came to Canada in 1996 to study economics at the Université de Montréal. While he enjoyed his studies, he missed playing the sport that had learned in his native country.
"I needed a place to play basketball, and I heard about Concordia," he said. "I didn't speak English, but figured I had to learn. I talked to the coach about trying for the team, and he said OK."
Dore and his coaching staff were impressed with Kitieu from the start. "Obviously, the first thing we noticed was his size," said Dore. "He also had great athleticism and soft hands. He could catch, run and jump, but was weak physically. He also needed to learn a lot about the game."
Kitieu had never seen a weight room in his native country and did push-ups to try and stay in shape. "There is more of a system over here, and the practices are hard," he said. "They're usually at 8 a.m., which is early for me, but you get used to it. The game is more physical here, and I realize I have to take care of myself, eat properly and that sort of stuff."
Kitieu says the biggest change for him is the weather, although he's trying to get used to the cold. "I've also noticed that there are more white people over here," he said with a grin.
Dore says that Kitieu is a fun-loving guy who works well with his teammates. "Réal gets along with everybody," Dore said. "He's one of the guys and the team is like his family. His brother is with us now too."
Armel Kitieu, 19, joined the Stingers this year. He's six foot five and weighs 225 pounds. "He's very much at the stage that Réal was last year," Dore said. "They're both great athletes and good students. It's great to have them at Concordia."
Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.