In a sea of NBA hopefuls one stands out above all of them — or more precisely, stands above them.
At 7-foot-6 with an 8-foot-1 wingspan, it seems obvious that Warriors Summer Leaguer Mamadou Ndiaye was born to play basketball. But if an assistant coach from UC Irvine hadn’t seen the then teenager play pickup basketball in Senegal, he may have been running down the soccer pitch instead of the hardwood.
Ndiaye may have even preferred that:
“Yeah I used to like soccer better than basketball [laughs], but now it’s obviously basketball.”
Basketball took him to the U.S., though he couldn’t play right away. After experiencing headaches, a tumor was discovered on his pituitary gland that caused his mammoth growth spurt.
He had surgery to remove it and was finally ready to play high school basketball at Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley, Calif.
The only problem, California Interscholastic Federation rules prohibited it his freshman year. So he transferred to Brethren Christian in Huntington Beach and finally got his prep career started.
And it led to some impressive mixtapes.
By the time Ndiaye signed with UC Irvine, he was somewhat of a local celebrity.
Something that Ndiaye appreciated, but admits was draining:
“Sometimes it was tough, because it was hard to get around since everywhere I went people wanted to take a picture and get autographs. I enjoyed it but just sometimes it was tough.”
After picking up basketball late, he flourished in his three years as an Anteater, coming within two points of knocking off Louisville in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, and twice being named the Big West Defensive Player of the Year and making the All-Big West team in 2016.
Though he didn’t get picked in this year’s draft, the Warriors signed him to their Summer League squad. It was a dream come true for Ndiaye:
“I mean it was just like excitement man, and I like the Warriors too, so when I heard I was coming here for Summer League I just got excited to work together.”
On the surface, it would seem like an odd match, as the Warriors death lineup with 6-foot-7 Draymond at center is their best. And with every team trying to emulate it, fewer and fewer teams are in the market for a literal giant.
But Ndiaye is well aware of that, and is trying his best to show he can work in a small-ball lineup:
“That’s what I’ve been working on, my jump shot, running the floor, rebounding. That’s pretty much going to be my role for the NBA now.”
Ndiaye’s Summer League minutes have been limited, logging just four minutes in a 78-65 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Monday where he totaled three rebounds and a turnover.
But the thing that limits his attractiveness to teams is also the thing that will allow him to get an abundance of chances, again him being an actual giant. Like WWE’s Enzo Amore would say, you can’t teach that.
Ndiaye has come a long way from a teenager playing pickup basketball in Senegal to now being on an NBA Summer League roster. His basketball career has taken the long way, but it’s almost complete. The only thing left for him? For his family who currently live in France to see him play in person.
And that could be happening in the very near future:
“They’ve only seen me play on TV, but my brother’s coming soon hopefully. But he made plans to come out this year to see my play a couple games.”
No doubt he’ll be easy to spot when they do — for his family and anyone else watching.