By Aaron Williams–
Gorgui Dieng plays for his team. The young man is selfless.
“It’s not about what Gorgui wants to do, it’s about what Gorgui should do to help the team win,” Dieng said to The Louisville Cardinal on a weekday afternoon at the Yum! Center practice facility.
His words are modest and careful, and show his thoughtfulness. The sophomore center from Kebemer, Senegal knows how to express himself. He can do it in five different languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian and his native tongue Wolof.
Or he can simply let his game do the talking. After averaging 5.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks off the bench last season for the Cardinals, Dieng spent the summer entrenched in the weight room, putting on ten pounds of muscle for his sophomore season. He has already had a combined ten blocks in Louisville’s pre-season exhibition games against Pikeville and Bellarmine, exhibiting that he’ll be a defensive low post presence for opposing teams to contend with this season.
“Anybody can score,” Dieng said. “If you’re six [feet] seven [inches tall] or six [feet] six [inches tall] and [foot] six [inches] and you dunk, that’s not fair. But when you’re blocking shots, I think that’s talent to block a shot, because a lot of people can’t. It’s timing though. There’s a lot of timing to blocking shots.”
Coming to Louisville last year as a freshman out of Huntington Prep, Dieng was ranked 44th nationally out of his 2010 recruiting class by Rivals.com and 46th by Scout.com. Now as a sophomore with a Big East tournament run and NCAA tournament experience adding to his resume, Dieng has a new familiarization of how Coach Rick Pitino’s system works, shared goals with the rest of the coaching staff and is driven by a desire to see his team succeed.
“To help the team win, I need to rebound the ball and block shots because we have a running team, everyone can run, everyone can put the ball on the floor, I need to understand my role well, rebound the ball and block shots.” Dieng said of the role he plays in complementing Louisville’s 2011 team.
Dieng also readily accepts the challenges Pitino’s staff lays in front of him.
“They push me a lot to do the best I can.” he said.
As a result of his eagerness to follow the instruction given by his coaches, the sophomore Dieng now has the benefit of a summer spent sharpening his skills, something he did not carry with him into the 2010-2011 season.
“They can expect a lot of good things about me, they can have lofty goals, but I need to be on the same page like them,” Dieng said of his time spent working out over the summer. “Even if they want me to be the greatest player in the world and I don’t want to, I need to want this goal more than them. I think they helped me a lot to get better this summer, to improve my game and to change my body.”
Apart from the coaching staffs’ goals, Dieng does share a few of his own, for his team and for himself. Yet it should come as no surprise that they are less personal and more collective.
“For myself, I want to just be healthy and happy and see my teammates doing great, that’s all I want for myself. For the team I want us to stay together and play as a team and win the Big East, get to the Final Four.”
It is clear that Gorgui Dieng, who Pitino believes will be one of the premier centers in college basketball before his time at Louisville is up, is a motivated contributor to this year’s Cardinal squad. He is ready to do what is demanded of him to push his team to victory. There seems to be just one thing that Gorgui needs to further bolster his defensive presence in the paint at the KFC Yum! Center.
“I think [Louisville fans] need to make the Yum! Center the hot place to play, the toughest place to play. To make the Yum! Center the toughest place to play, it’s going to help us a lot too. I’m not saying it’s going to help us thirty percent or forty, but it’s going to help.”
Photo: Michael Baldwin/The Louisville Cardinal