Hard work, competitiveness, toughness, fire and energy.
Newcomer and fifth year senior, Ron Mvouika, fits these traits perfectly as the 6'6 forward has used his childhood experiences as a chance to turn everything into a positive and transform his basketball career at St. John's.
"I'm from the projects," Mvouika said at Carnesecca Arena for St. John's Media Day. "You have to be tough in that environment but I just took it as a positive and it will be something that I will always carry around with me. Not a lot of people make it out of there and I always used that as a motivation to let everybody know what I will be on the court: a fighter. I just want people to know I'm a tough guy and a hard worker and I love to use my background and history."
Mvouika grew up in Paris, France where his brothers, Floris, Madila, Rolly and Jean Jeremie, exposed him to the game of basketball at the age of five.
"My older brother was playing and he was a huge Michael Jordan fan," Mvouika said. "We used to watch tapes of Jordan all day, over and over and over again. My love for the game just grew by playing with my family."
After beginning his career in Paris, Mvouika soon decided to play for the Canarias Basketball Academy in Spain, where he dominated, averaging 25 points, five rebounds and six assists per game. The European style of play also greatly benefited the youngster, who moved to the United States at age 17 to play for Huntington Prep in West Virginia.
"The game here is way quicker," Mvouika said. "It took me a little while to adjust but my IQ was a little higher than most of the kids I played with in prep school."
The speed of the game completely "shocked" Mvouika but he played well enough to earn a spot at the Junior College level at Sheridan College.
"It was one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me," he said. "In Wyoming, there's not much stuff to do, especially with me coming from Paris. There was no mall and there wasn't even a barber shop for me to get a haircut. But it was good for me because it was a place I could focus on basketball and nothing else. That place will always be special in my heart."
Mvouika only averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game during his freshman campaign before he made a monster jump in his second season. He earned National Junior College Athletic Association All-Region IX First Team honors, led his team to a share of the Region IX North Title, averaged almost 20 points per game and developed into one of the best JUCO players in the nation.
The Paris native then translated the breakout season into scholarship offers and heavy interest from Wichita State and other teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. Mvouika found something special about Missouri State and committed to the program in 2013.
"I went there (Missouri State) on my visit and I had a good feeling about it," Mvouika said. "I wanted to switch the program around and we did. We went from 11-22 to 20-13 so that was a challenge where they wanted players to bring something to the table right away and change the culture."
Mvouika appeared in 31 games and was fourth on the team in scoring during his first season on campus but in year two he suffered a season ending injury that sidelined him after the second game of the year.
That was another difficult time period of the student-athletes' life but being the fighter that he is, Mvouika responded in a positive way, took a step back and worked hard on his game.
And with one year remaining, he knew exactly where he wanted to finish his college career: The Big Apple.
"Oh that's easy," Mvouika said when asked why he chose St. John's. "You have Coach Mullin, Madison Square Garden and the city of New York. The school is filled with tradition and history. I mean just look at the jerseys up there like it was just easy. I love New York. It was really easy."
While the Johnnies are a young squad with a brand new coach roaming the sideline, Mvouika expects the team to be competitive every time they step on the floor. His leadership, experience and positive outlook on life cannot be overstated and that should have a huge impact on the five freshman that will look to change the culture of a program that has underachieved the past few years.
"God puts you in different situations for a reason and there's always something positive in the end," he said. "I will control what I can control and let God take care of the rest. It can be basketball or it can be life. But all I know is I'm going to give 100 percent all the time."
In the next few years, if Mullin can reel in more players with an attitude like Mvouika, this program will be set for seasons to come.