Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Ian Clark’s college team played in Utah last spring and the Belmont star made a quick pit stop in the Beehive State after being signed by the Jazz this summer. Despite that, the rookie knew next to nobody and recognized very little about his new surroundings when he showed up before training camp.
Some things were impossible to overlook.
The tall hills to the east? Those are the Wasatch Mountains.
The tall building he temporarily called home? Welcome to the Grand America.
And the tall guy who’s as big as those mountains and hotel? That’s Rudy Gobert, his new BFF.
That’s an acronym for Best French Friend, of course.
Since meeting each other in early September, 6-foot-3 guard Clark and 7-foot-1 center Gobert have become fast friends in Salt Lake City. They’re from vastly different backgrounds in Tennessee and France, but the rookies quickly hit it off and are helping each other cope with a working environment that is foreign to them both.
“I never would have thought it,” the 22-year-old Clark said with a smile. “But that’s how life works sometimes.”
Or, as they might say in France, c’est la vie!
“It’s always better than being alone,” 21-year-old Gobert admitted.
The friendship formed quickly when Clark, the American, asked Gobert, the Frenchman, for a lift across town. He was without a car and the two players were staying at the same hotel until they could find their own apartments.
“I asked him for a ride to workouts,” Clark said. “From then on, we started hanging out all the time.”
Hanging out, working out, eating out, playing a lot of basketball, occasionally teasing each other — even on Twitter, playing a variety of games, and helping each other with their native languages.
“We just chill,” Clark said. “It’s good to have somebody (to hang out with).”
“We scope out the city together, restaurants, see places,” Gobert said.
Clark took Gobert to an American football game at the University of Utah, and he’s taught his tall buddy a thing or two about basketball video games.
Gobert taught Clark a very limited amount of French vocabulary, and he’s schooled him at the pool table.
“In Basket 2K, he beats me,” Gobert admitted.
“He beats me in pool all the time,” Clark added.
Did we mention they also razz each other like friends so often do?
“I got him a couple of times (in pool), got close,” Clark said, defending himself.
“It’s like 20-2,” Gobert said, clarifying the one-sided outcomes.
“No it’s not,” Clark rebutted. “It’s like 8-2.”
The Southerner and the Parisian laugh with the same accent, by the way. Get them speaking and, well, that’s when the different dialects are noticeable. That’s especially the case when Clark shares his version of French.
“I know one word: Gunwee,” Clark said, laughing. He then tried to correct his pronunciation before Gobert could. “Gunawee. It means frog, I think. I don’t know why he told me that, but that’s what he told me.”
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