July 10, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Nothing can be more dangerous to an incoming freshman than being distracted or buying into comparisons.
Georgia Tech freshman Abdoulaye Gueye (pronounced Ab-DOO-lay Gay) has already heard plenty of those.
He’s had to steer clear of comparisons to Kevin Garnett, one of the NBA’s premiere power forwards, for his ability to block shots defensively and score in the paint and on the perimeter, (not to mention a similar body type at age 18 — Gueye stands 6-10, 211). Then there’s the ones with his idol, Kevin Durant, the four-time NBA scoring champion and the most explosive scorer in today’s game, for his ball-handling and offensive game, although, obviously, he’s not yet nearly as explosive.
Those kinds of comparisons are unfair to put on any 18-year-old, but especially on Gueye, nicknamed, “A.D.,” a native of Dakar, Senegal, who didn’t touch a basketball until age 14, and who has played only two years at the high school level in America.
Avoiding the distractions has been easy so far. It’s simply applying hard work and dedication.
“I don’t worry about anything,” he said. “I’m going hard in the gym. We go hard every day.”
He knows he’s a work in progress but there is that upside.
Upside that led recruiters to call him, “The new four. The new hybrid four that can run the floor, handle [the ball], shoot jump shots, defend multiple positions,” according to Donovan Broadnax, his coach the last two years at Central Park High School in Birmingham, Alabama.
Gueye, who came to Central Park in 2012 as an exchange student, was a vital piece to an Eagles’ team that won the National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) Division 1A Championship last year, averaging 14.0 points, 12 rebounds and 4.0 blocks. He’d earn defensive MVP of the championship. His senior numbers were up from 11.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg from his first year. In the classroom, meanwhile, he was an Honor Roll student.
Turns out they had him at ‘Hello.’
“I think it is a very good spot for me and I’ll like playing in the ACC,” said Gueye, who admitted hearing of Georgia Tech growing up because of countryman and former Yellow Jacket Mouhammad Faye, who played two years at Georgia Tech (2007, ’08). “It’s a great challenge and great competition for me to develop myself.”
While Faye drew Gueye to Atlanta, another countryman with whom Gueye is well acquainted, first-year assistant Mamadou N’Diaye, will help him raise his game and potentially get to the next level.
“I know him from Senegal. So I’ve known him even before I started to coach,” said N’Diaye. “After I decided to coach and when he came to the U.S. it was just natural that we kept in touch and the past couple of years we talked a lot. I’m more of an advisor and just trying to help. Other young kids from Senegal call me for advice, being the first player from Senegal to get drafted in the first round. I can kind of guide them a little bit.”
N’Diaye insists that he did not guide him to Georgia Tech.
“He was already coming here,” said N’Diaye, who was hired by Gregory on April 18, the day after Gueye committed and only five days after his official visit. “He had other schools but Georgia Tech was the best for his host family. Coach Dollar and Coach Gregory did a wonderful job of recruiting him even before I was here. Georgia Tech was his number one option.”
Gueye is excited about the opportunity to work with N’Diaye now.
“I consider him my second dad. He helped me a lot,” he said. “He was the first [player from] Senegal to be drafted in the first round of the NBA. I look at him and he treated me like his son. I tried to be like him.”
A.D. is like his hero in regard to his defensive skill, especially shot-blocking and taking advantage of his 7-3 wingspan, but he has much more versatility offensively, especially with his ability to put the ball on the floor.
Still, Gueye knows there is still a lot of work to be done to get ready for D-I college basketball. That process has begun.
“[Strength and Conditioning] Coach Michael [Bewley] is helping me to gain some weight. I think right now I’m getting a little bit bigger,” he said. “I think I’m getting better every day. I’m improving my shooting. Coach Gregory and Coach Mamadou encourage me and all the coaches, they coach me every day. They talk to me every day about how I can develop my game, my speed. They have helped me a lot.”
N’Diaye calls Gueye’s focus and commitment a good start.
“Right now, he just needs to focus on getting better. That’s most important,” he said. “As far as roles, what he’s going to do, I do believe he’s going to contribute to this team. How much or how little depends on his development. He needs to get stronger. He needs to learn the system of play of Coach Gregory and different things. I do believe he’s going to contribute but it’s hard to predict how much or how little. Most important for him, the only thing he needs to focus on is getting better every day.
“He has worked hard with Coach Bewley and has picked up things very fast,” he added. “He just needs to keep on doing what he’s doing and, like I said, focus on getting better on a bunch of moves on the court and in the weight room. But definitely he has a very nice, natural gift from God. So now he just needs to improve it as much as possible.”
The comparisons and the predictions and the hype that goes along with playing in the ACC, are all secondary. Right now, Gueye’s got a one-track mind.
“I’m working,” he said. “This is the big time.”
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