SEN - Dieng develops
LOUISVILLE (NCAA/Afrobasket) – Over the weekend, Gorgui Dieng experienced something that not many players ever will.
The Senegal native, a 2.11m tower of power who competes for the Louisville Cardinals in American college basketball, played in a game that went to five overtimes.
Notre Dame beat the Cardinals, 104-101, and Dieng logged 52 minutes.
The African poured in 17 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, blocked a shot and came up with three steals.
That Dieng enjoys such a huge role for one of American college basketball's most famous teams, one that is nationally ranked and has prevailed in 19 of its 24 games, says much about his potential.
The Senegalese Basketball Federation already know about him, and he could end up in their national team at a big event in the very near future, possibly this summer at the Afrobasket when the team attempts to qualify for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
What most people don't know is that Dieng ended up at Louisville almost by accident.
His coach at Louisville, Rick Pitino was, along with his assistant and former player at the University of Kentucky, Walter McCarty, scouting another high school star in West Virginia when he noticed his tall, skinny teammate Dieng.
Pitino has told the story before.
He said to McCarty: "I like the big guy better."
After McCarty expressed surprise, Pitino answered: "Yes, he's just weak. His potential is unbelievable."
If there is one thing that Pitino knows when he sees it, it's potential.
After averaging just 15.6 minutes per game as a freshman, Dieng played 32.8 mpg as a sophomore.
In that second season, he dominated the low post and had 11 double-doubles in points and rebounds.
His 128 blocked shots as a sophomore were a new school single season record and his 184 career blocks are the fourth most at Louisville.
Coming into this season, Dieng had blocked at least four shots in 21 career games.
He has also had in his Cardinals career back-to-back games with at least five blocked shots on four occasions, the most in Louisville history.
Now, he’s averaging 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in 31.3 mpg.
Dieng only arrived in America in 2009, when he enrolled at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, which is where Pitino discovered him.
A big man with a 7ft-4in wingspan, he couldn't utter a word of English when he arrived in America but can now.
In fact, he speaks four other languages: Spanish, French, Italian and his native Wolof.
Recently, his father watched him play for Louisville for the first time.
"I am proud of him and his mother is proud of him," Momar Dieng said through an interpreter.
"We are proud of him for everything."