WILMINGTON — Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, who played major college basketball, in the NBA, and overseas, has been described in the 76ers organization as a budding Elton Brand.
Not as a player, but as an executive.
Like Brand, the Sixers’ general manager who was a two-time NBA all-star during his 17-year playing career, Boumtje Boumtje is looking to work his way up the NBA executive ladder through the G League. He’s in his first season as the assistant general manger for the Sixers’ G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.
Brand also began his executive career in the G League as the Blue Coats’ general manager, serving one season before being hired as the Sixers’ GM in September 2018
“It is quite a compliment when they say that somebody could be another Elton Brand,” Brand said recently. “We are very excited about Ruben’s potential.”
In these days there is often a line drawn between the basketball and analytic worlds. A talent evaluator is usually either one or the other.
Boumtje Boumtje happens to be both.
A native of Cameroon, who came to the country as an 18-year-old to play his senior year in high school at Washington’s Archbishop Carroll, Boumtje Boumtje graduated from Georgetown with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He later returned to earn a master’s in applied mathematics and statistics.
“You are hard-pressed for somebody to play top Division I competition, in the NBA, and overseas and then earn a master’s in applied math and statistics,” Brand said. “Plus, he is also a great person.”
Boumtje Boumtje has known of the Sixers’ more famous native of Cameroon, Joel Embiid, for quite some time.
“I had a basketball camp years ago and he was still a kid and he was at the camp, but obviously we have gotten to know each other more since I came to the 76ers,” Boumtje Boumtje said.
With such an impressive educational resume, one that earned him the Big East Scholar Athlete of the Year award in 2001, it’s easy to overlook one thing that can enable the 41-year-old Boumtje Boumtje to succeed. He is simply a hoopaholic.
“I love watching games,” Boumtje Boumtje said earlier this month during an interview in his office at the 76ers Fieldhouse, home of the Blue Coats. “I tell people, I don’t have a job, I have a hobby.”
He’s finding out that it is indeed a job.
The first time that Boumtje Boumtje realized his knowledge of numbers and basketball could intersect was while he was earning his master’s.
“It was during that journey that I became aware of analytics getting into the NBA,” he said.
After he earned his master’s, Boumtje Boumtje worked for Siemens, an energy company in Orlando. He was a data scientist and strategy consultant there from 2015 to 2018. While he enjoyed crunching numbers, when the 76ers offered him a job as a technical scout — which he described as being a data scientist — in June 2018, Boumtje Boumtje jumped at the opportunity.
Even though he worked heavily in analytics last year for the Sixers, Boumtje Boumtje said that scouting players became a much bigger part of his job. Among the players he scouted was Sixers first-round pick Matisse Thybulle of Washington, who has earned rotation minutes as a rookie.
“The scouting really improved my basketball knowledge," he said.
The Sixers liked his progression so much that they thought that moving into the front office in the G League would be a natural progression.
There isn’t any job that is too menial for a G League executive.
“The best thing about being in the league is you get to do everything,” Blue Coats general manager Matt Lilly said. “The worst part is you have to do everything.”
It’s an all-compassing job, but one that Brand said helped him to become an NBA executive.
“It was everything for my growth and personal development,” Brand said about his G League stint. “I had to make my first trades, I had to hire and fire people, cut players, draft players, build a roster and scout and think about marketing and all those things."
Boumtje Boumtje has been at his new job for only a few months, but it is all-encompassing.
“There is so much to learn, but it is exciting,” he said.
The Sixers didn’t stumble onto Boumtje Boumtje. Brand has known about him for more than two decades.
Both were high school seniors in 1997 and they played against each other in the Capital Classic, one of the nation’s top high school basketball all-star games. Brand played for the U.S. team and Boumtje Boumtje for the Washington-area squad.
Both were named MVP of their team in that game. Brand scored 22 points as the U.S. Stars defeated the Capital Stars, 125-113. Boumtje Boumtje had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“I remember it as I was the MVP and he had a good game,” Brand said laughing.
Then it was on to Georgetown, where the 7-foot Boumtje Boumtje finished fourth on the career blocked shots list behind some pretty notable players in Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and Diekembe Mutombo.
Boumtje Boumtje was drafted in the second round by the Portland Trail Blazers, the 50th overall selection in the 2001 draft. He spent three seasons in Portland and eventually played professionally in Greece and Germany. Boumtje Boumtje played until 2011, when a heart condition, which he says is fine now, caused him to retire.
Then it was on to earning his master’s, working in the business world, and being hired by the Sixers.