By Justin Stephenson–
Dieng is a famous name in Louisville that was often pronounced, ‘Dang!’ after he made an emphatic dunk, crucial rebound or ferociously blocked a shot into the third row. This nickname also followed his silky smooth, 12-foot jumpers swishing through the bottom of the net, and it also occurred regularly throughout his prolific performance in Louisville’s championship run through the NCAA tournament.
No matter how you said his name, it meant ‘Good’ in the colloquial language of Louisville basketball.
Former U of L basketball center Gorgui Dieng averaged 9.1 rebounds per game and 2.6 blocked shots per game, and he set the single season record for blocked shots during his three-year career playing for Rick Pitino and the University of Louisville.
His legend inspired the ring of his name through the Yum! Center’s rafters many times in his day, and now, with his prolific performance in the FIBA world cup, the entire world is joining in.
As the time comes to prove himself in the NBA this upcoming season, this charismatic center from Senegal is using his newfound leverage to do the one thing that he has always preached.
“I want to go back home and give back,” Dieng said in a 2013 interview with Card Chronicle.
Averaging 16 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in the FIBA World Cup, Dieng has done just that. Relying heavily on Dieng’s contribution, Senegal, a nation that FIBA had picked as the third worst team in the World Cup, was able to make it out of the group stages and advance to the knockout round where they fell to Spain.
Dieng’s dynamic 27 point, eight rebound performance carried Senegal to an extraordinary 77-75 upset over Croatia. A perennial, international basketball powerhouse, Croatia got introduced first hand to the big-game play Dieng carries onto the big stage.
Drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dieng’s world cup performance has inspired confidence in his NBA coach Flip Saunders, who will rotate Dieng with starting center, Nikoa Pekovic, next season.
Many basketball analysts point to Dieng’s dominant defense, 2.6 blocks per game last season and his work ethic as positive signs for his professional future.
“Dieng is athletic and a good passer out of the high post; it will be fun to see him develop with the Timberwolves,” sports guru John Schumann said. Schumann is the authority who invented the NBA power rankings.
Heading into his second year in the NBA, Dieng is ready to make a jump in playing time and contribution.
“His versatility has propelled him from being an afterthought role player to a potential full-time starter,” NBA columnist Zach Buckley said of Dieng.
After nabbing three double-doubles and probing the paint in NBA summer play, Dieng seems to have left off where he started. His increased presence in the league has come with an increased commitment to his original mission of giving back to his native homeland.
Through his work with Basketball Without Borders, the international organization which inspired him and several other players like Luc Mbah a Moute and Joel Embiid to achieve their basketball dreams, Dieng continues to help others achieve theirs.
Only time will tell of the success in store for Gorgui Dieng, but his play in the World Cup is tell tale that he is giving it all he’s got.