Posted: 4:12 pm Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
By Ken Sugiura
I wrote a story for myajc and Tuesday’s paper about Mamadou N’Diaye, hired by coach Brian Gregory to replace Josh Postorino. Here’s some leftover material and observations, free of charge.
1. When the job came upon, N’Diaye said, a friend put him in touch with Tech assistant Chad Dollar and then coach Brian Gregory. N’Diaye and Gregory spoke by phone last summer, and Gregory came away impressed. Gregory said that, when out watching prospects in AAU tournaments during the summer, he is often paying attention to what other coaches are doing – watching intently, chatting with colleagues, arriving early and staying late – and will strike up conversations to get a sense of their thinking and evaluation skills.
“In talking with him, he’s got a really good understanding of the game and players,” Gregory said. “He’s a tough evaluator. He’s just got a really good feel for the game and maybe looks past the obvious stuff and sees some of the small stuff.”
Said Coastal Carolina Cliff Ellis, whom N’Diaye served as an assistant for three seasons and also played for an Auburn, “He’s got the whole package.”
2. N’Diaye had also interviewed at Auburn for a position on new coach Bruce Pearl’s staff. After interviewing with Auburn, N’Diaye chose Tech and Gregory before hearing back from Pearl.
“I felt very comfortable with the situation,” N’Diaye said, “because you want to be comfortable with the people you work with. I have some people that I trust since I’ve been here in the country and they had nothing but good things to say about Coach Gregory, Coach Dollar.”
3. I think he can have a substantive impact on recruiting, particularly with African prospects. First, he has considerable status, particularly in Senegal, as the first Senegalese player to be drafted in the NBA. Second, he has a wealth of connections, again particularly in Senegal. Third, I think there’s considerable value in his ability to tell prospects and their families that he successfully did what they’re trying to do, and he’ll be there to help them adjust to the U.S., college life, the game and so on.
For example, N’Diaye recruited Michel Enanga from Cameroon through Luc Mbah a Moute, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. N’Diaye and Mbah a Moute met when the former was with the Los Angeles Clippers and the latter was at UCLA. Enanga met Mbah a Moute through his camp, at which Enanga was named MVP. Through their friendship, Mbah a Moute felt comfortable advising Enanga to go to Coastal Carolina.
As N’Diaye said of the recruitment of one of the two Senegalese players on the roster, “We have a prior relationship. It just became a natural, after I went to Coastal, for him to come here.”
N’Diaye also has recruited Florida and is connected well with prep schools, which has become a relatively common option for players needing to either improve their academic record or to develop their game for another year. Tech’s roster has two such players, point guards Corey Heyward and Travis Jorgenson.
4. N’Diaye was not hired in time to assist in the recruitment of recent signee Abdoulaye Gueye, also from Senegal. That said, N’Diaye knew him personally, as the two had talked occasionally.
“I wasn’t here yet, but when I was asked, I think he has a chance to be really, really good,” N’Diaye said. “He has everything needed to be a pro. The things he needs to develop, he can find here.”
Gueye is evidently not unlike most or all young players from Senegal in that they’ve leaned on N’Diaye for advice. The basketball community in Senegal is not so big that getting connected with N’Diaye isn’t too difficult. For instance, N’Diaye is close with Amadou Gallo Fall, who is the NBA’s vice president for development in Africa and the founder of the SEEDS Academy in Senegal, a boarding school that gives enrollees the schooling and basketball training to put them in place to play college basketball. Former Yellow Jacket Mouhammad Faye is an alumnus.
“Pretty much all the players who are here from Senegal, I do know,” N’Diaye said. “It’s not very big.”
(This is tangential, but Gueye, who is a senior exchange student at Central Park Christian in Birmingham, Ala., is living with the same host family that a recent Georgia signee, Osahen Iduwe, lived with last year before going to prep school. Sounds like someone’s going to have to buy one of those “House Divided” license plates.)
5. There is a rising senior in Tavares, Fla., by the name of Tacko Fall, who is 7-foot-4 and Senegalese. N’Diaye’s brother reportedly helped Fall make it to the U.S.; N’Diaye’s brother Ibrahima runs a basketball and soccer academy where Fall trained in Dakar. Ibrahima helped direct him to central Florida, knowing that an Auburn teammate of Mamadou’s, Pat Burke, lives there and trains basketball players.
He told the Orlando Sentinel that he wants to study biochemistry.
This isn’t to say that Fall will sign with Tech, but if Gregory is interested, it isn’t a stretch to suggest that Tech has a much better chance than it did a month ago.
6. Former Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng, also now with the Timberwolves, is from Senegal. The New York Times reported that there were 24 graduates of the SEEDS Academy playing college basketball in the U.S. this past season.
N’Diaye on Senegal: “If you go to the (U.S.) Embassy, you have a long line of kids trying to come (to the U.S.). And always, you’re going to find a basketball player in the line, or a few of them.”
7. N’Diaye will be responsible for coaching Tech’s big men. Giving players an all-around game is a priority to him. African players have largely been strong at defense and rebounding, but not necessarily skilled with the ball. He said part of the problem is coaching at the developmental level, which allows those players to be typecast once they get to college.
“Don’t tell me a kid comes here for four years, you can’t develop him to score the ball,” he said. “But a lot of coaches settle.”
8. N’Diaye is on the lookout for an Atlanta restaurant that serves Senegalese food. Two of his favorite dishes are mafé, a peanut butter stew, and thieboudienne, a rice and fish stew.
N’Diaye described mafé as “kind of like Thai food but better than Thai food.”
9. N’Diaye speaks English, French and Wolof (the most widely spoken language in Senegal) and can understand a little Bambara (another Senegalese language) and Arabic.
Said Ellis, “He’s one of the brightest people you’ll meet.”
10. It’s pronounced “mah-mah-DOO en-JIE”