By Tom Ballato
Mouphtaou Yarou emigrated to the United States in 2007 from Benin, a country in West Africa.
He attended high school at Massanutten Prep in Woodstock, Virginia, before transferring to Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland. At Montrose Christian School, colleges started taking notice of him. He became a five-star prospect and a top 20 ranked recruit.
Villanova beat out UCLA, Pittsburgh, New Mexico St., Memphis, and Vanderbilt to land his services. “The plan Jay Wright and Villanova had for me, and my career fit well for me. What was a big factor was my high school teammate and friend Isaiah Armwood already signed for Villanova.”
In his four years at Villanova, Yarou averaged 8.9 points and 7 rebounds per game. Villanova made three NCAA Tournament appearances during his tenure.
What stood out to him in his four years was his senior year. “We had a terrible season the year before. The worst in Villanova history. We lost to Columbia University at home. I had a talk with Billy Lange (Villanova’s associate head coach and current coach at Saint Joseph’s) and then had a meeting with the team. We turned things around. My teammates were amazing, they followed my leadership, and we beat three top five teams in a week and made it to the NCAA Tournament.”
That season built up Yarou’s character and set him up for the beginning of his professional career.
Right after his senior year at Villanova, Yarou received an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational, which invites 64 of the best college basketball seniors from across the country. They play in a four-day, twelve-game tournament. “It was great playing with guys from other colleges. We won it (Portsmouth Invitational). It helped me get more NBA workouts with teams. It also helped me get a summer league experience with Golden State.”
Yarou went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft but spent summer league with the Golden State Warriors.
In August of 2013, he signed with BC Radnicki Kragujevac in Serbia’s A-League and played in Serbia for four months. He averaged 11.9 points and 10.6 rebounds in nine games, but after differences with the team, his contract was terminated.
Yarou agreed on a two-year contract with Le Mans Sarthe Basket, a team in France’s top basketball league in June 2014. He tried to catch on to an NBA team and signed on to play summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers. Yarou spoke about his time with the 76ers and said, “That time with the Sixers was a great learning process, and I had a chance to spend more time with Billy Lange. He always tells me the truth and not just what I wanted to hear. I played with great guys like Nerlens Noel. I realized where I was as a player and what I needed to work and focus on.”
France has been a mainstay for Yarou. After his brief stint in Serbia, he has spent the last six years of his career in France. He played three seasons with Le Mans Sarthe Basket, a season with Antibes Sharks, and Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 for the past two years. Mixed in those past six years, he spent summer league with the Boston Celtics in 2016.
Yarou enjoys the run and gun style of the LNB Pro A (France’s highest professional basketball league). “It is an athletic league. I enjoy the physicality, and every year we play in a European competition.”
This past season in France, Yarou averaged 5.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12 minutes per game returning from injury. His team clinched a playoff berth with ten games left (the season was cut short due to the coronavirus). Yarou spoke about his season and said, “I had a complete rupture of my Achilles on February 9, 2019, so I’m slowly coming back from it. I’m almost 100%. It’s not yet where I want to be, but it’s part of the recovery process.”
Since Villanova, Yarou has improved his post-up game. He can back defenders up and face them up going to the basket. As a big man, his most significant strength is his ability to use his body to rebound and be a presence on the defensive end.
Yarou is working on getting his French citizenship and the next place he’ll play. “My goal is to choose the best team and the best medical staff anywhere in Europe.”