Much as injuries set back the promising career of Frank Hollendoner, the late 1990's saw another center, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, fall prey to a number of injuries that limited but did not obscure his contributions to Georgetown Basketball.
Boumtje-Boumtje emigrated from the Cameroon to northeast Washington, with an eye to attend Georgetown following an all-Met career at John Carroll HS, coach John Thompson's alma mater. Six games into his freshman season, he suffered a wrist injury that cost him the 1997-98 season. Subsequent knee surgery forced Boumtje-Boumtje to start all over the following season.
Ruben scored only six baskets in his first four games of the 1998-99 season, but used his sophomore year to rebuild his skills and confidence. Second in rebounding and fourth in scoring for the team, his 89 blocks were the third most blocks by any Georgetown sophomore, trailing only Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning. Five double-doubles, including a 15 point 13 rebound effort in a win over Pitt, solidified Boumtje-Boumtje as a future Hoya star.
Once again, injuries interrupted Boumtje-Boumtje's ascent into the Hoya pantheon. Ruben missed the 1999-00 eason opener due to a foot injury, and did not hit his stride until the sixth game of the season, where he scored a combined 35 points and 21 rebounds in a two game stretch of non-conference wins over Howard and Bethune Cookman. An 18 point, 15 rebound effort versus James Madison held high hopes that Boumtje-Boumtje and the Hoyas would return to the top of the Big East standings, but the Hoyas finished 6-10 instead. Amidst the disappointing finish, Ruben turned in an strong season, averaging 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks in Big East play in mid-February before another injury sidelined him near the end of the regular season. For the year, Boumtje-Boumtje scored a career high 32 in a non-conference walkover against Southern, but nearly matched it in a 27 point effort versus Pitt three days later. Boumtje-Boumtje finished in the top ten in four Big East statistical categories, which led to his third team selection in the All-Big East team in 2000.
Boumtje-Boumtje's senior season might have been seen as a disappointment by some--while starting all 33 games, the focus of the front court offense had shifted to Mike Sweetney and Lee Scruggs and he was no longer a main scoring option. Ruben scored double figures in 12 of 33 games, including a four game stretch where his 55 points and 37 rebounds helped solidify the Hoyas' first NCAA bid since 1997. He picked up a combined 15 points and 18 rebounds in post-season games against Arkansas and Hampton, but had a disappointing finale versus Maryland, fouling out in 19 minutes without a point. Held to only one block in the game, Ruben finished 4th in career blocks, trailing only the names of Ewing, Mourning, and Mutombo.
The Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje story was always more about rankings and statistics. The first pre-med (with a double-major in mathematics) to play varsity basketball in 33 years, Ruben was a three time recipient of the team's scholar-athlete award and was named Big East Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2001. "Pro scouts will look at him and look at his marvelous physical skills, understanding that he’s a very intelligent young man and put the two together and see that there’s great potential there," said ESPN analyst Len Elmore, just prior to Boumtje-Boumtje's selection by the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers in the 2001 NBA draft. Once again, however, injuries spoiled Ruben's future NBA career. After 33 games in his rookie year, he played in only 11 games in the remaining two seasons of his career, averaging just under a point per game before being traded twice and eventually released.
For his efforts on and off the court, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje remains one of Georgetown's great big men.