NBA Draft: Louisville's Gorgui Dieng getting more familiar with English language, basketball

BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: June 12, 2013

Gorgui Dieng spoke four languages when he arrived in America four years ago. Unfortunately for him, English wasn't one of them.

Born in Senegal, Dieng was a 6-foot-11, 180-pound, multilingual math wiz who spoke Spanish, French, Italian and his native Wolof.

“It was very hard for me,” Dieng said. “The first week I would just stay in my room. I couldn't speak to anybody. I couldn't do anything 'cause I couldn't speak one word of English. If you said ‘Hi' to me, I would just look at you. I didn't know what to say.”

Since then, Gorgui Dieng (pronounced GOR-gee Jeng) has become a grand communicator, a veritable quote machine:

* “I'm not scared to set a high goal. If I fail, at least I set a very high goal. Not setting a goal and fail? That's the worst.”

* “Be happy and healthy and respectful to people. Respect everybody, whether I'm older than them or they're older than me. Have a very disciplined life. If you just go back to the basics … ”

* “People forget the basics. Now, it's all about money. It's all about what you got. They forget happiness. There is nothing better than a smile. Nothing.”

* “I go to the hospital, and I see kids. Even when they're sick, they're lying down on the bed, they don't stop smiling. You change their life. And I don't give them anything. Just go to see them, talk to them and take a picture.”

Louisville coach Rick Pitino eventually compared the allure of Dieng to that of Louisville native, Muhammad Ali.

“He draws crowds that are Ali-like,” Pitino said. “It's incredible the magnetism and the charisma and the love the city has for this guy. Wherever he goes, it's, ‘Gorgui, Gorgui, Gorgui, Gorgui.'”


GORGUI DIENG

Height: 6-foot-11

Weight: 230

Birthdate: Jan. 18, 1990

Hometown: Kebemer, Senegal

School: Louisville

Class: Junior

2012-13 stats: 31.1 mpg; 9.8 ppg; 9.4 rpg; 2.5 bpg; .534 FG; .652 FT

Strengths: Outstanding defensively. Intense battler in the paint. Continues to grow into a prototypical center, adding 50 pounds in the last four years. At the draft combine, he was measured with the second-longest standing reach at 9-foot-3½ inches.

Weaknesses: Still goes for head fakes and is victimized by players with solid post moves. Poor offensively with back to the basket, shooting just 28 percent from the post. Weak opposite (left) hand, particularly after breaking left wrist early last season.

How he could help the Thunder: Plays with an attitude on defense and has tremendous work ethic. Unselfish offensively and a terrific passer. Mature, extremely cultured and speaks five languages. Would blend in well with Serge Ibaka and Hasheem Thabeet.

Projections: No. 11 (cbssports.com); No. 12 (si.com); No. 20 (draftexpress.com); No. 22 (espn.com); No. 24 (hoopshype.com; nbadraft.net)

Quotable: “I want to go back home and give back. People helped me to get here to go to school and play basketball, I want to go back home and do the same thing for the kids. I think they really want it. I don't want to be selfish. People who helped me do what I'm doing right now, I want to go back and do the same thing for them.” – Dieng on making off-season trips to Senegal.

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