One thing left in the notebook for a long time is a somewhat lengthy but quite interesting interview with University of Louisville center Gorgui Dieng before the Cardinals faced Florida in the Elite Eight in March. Before it fades away, it seems like the heat of summer is a good time to run some of his remarks at length, as the WDRB College Basketball Notebook rolls on through the summer . . .
Gorgui Dieng holds court, March 2012
The following are transcribed remarks, trying to keep with Dieng's pronunciation patterns (he is a native of Senegal).
DIENG: I don't care about rivalries, you know, I just, I don't want to play basketball to make enemies. I want to -- I love this game, and I want to just have fun with people. This year when we went to Kentucky, I told my teammates, this is not a rivalry game to me. It's a regular game and we have to win it. We're trying to find a way to win this game, that's all we need. I don't care what people say. Like me, I never seen a basketball game that a fan stepped on the court and helped the team. I haven't seen that yet. So I think rivalries, ranking, that's for the fans, but not for us. Not for me.
DIENG, ON HIS ARRIVAL IN THE U.S.: It was very hard for me. 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.
ASKED IF HE WAS SCARED: I wasn't scared, because I know nothing's gonna happen to me. You know, in America, we have more freedom than anywhere, anywhere else I've been in the past. So I wasn't scared. I just know it takes time to learn this language. Every night I was calling my dad to explain how tough it is and stuff. He said, That's your decision.
ASKED IF HE CONSIDERED GOING BACK HOME: Quit? No, I'm no quitter. It's like, if I start something, I'm really stubborn. If I say I'm gonna do this, nobody will stop me. I'm going to do it. . . . One thing I was doing, my dad told me you've got to try to talk to people and try to communicate and that will help you learn the language really quick. You can't just stay in your corner. You need to socialize more with people so you can learn the language.
DIENG, WHEN ASKED IF HE'D BEEN COMPARED TO ANY NBA PLAYER: When I started playing, people were always saying, you play like Kevin Garnett. He's very dedicated. He plays hard and stuff. I just, I don't like people comparing me to anyone. When people said Oh you play like Kevin Garnett, I just said, nah, I'm Gorgui Dieng. They'd say, No, it's nothing bad. I say, I know, but I just, he's a great basketball player, a lot of people look up to him. I just want to be me. Listen, when I speak to my friends I tell them, Do I want to accomplish what he did? Yes. But I just want to be myself.
DIENG, ON HIS DESIRE TO PLAY IN THE NBA: I think if I play in the NBA one day, I accomplish 70 percent of my goals. Since I started playing basketball I always said I want to be a pro one day. Hanging out with my friends, when I was little, I always said, You know what, I want to be a pro. And if I made it one day, I think I accomplish 70 percent of my goals. I'm gonna change people's lives where I'm from, because they're going to start looking at me, saying look at this kid, he was young, he was going to school and now he's a pro. People are going to realize how important school and education are. People are going to understand I get where I am right now through school. Because some people didn't make it because, where I'm from, some kids quit school just to play sport. So I have both. I'm going to get my degree one day, and I'm going to make it to the league one day.
Q: HOW DOES YOUR DAD FEEL ABOUT THE NBA?
DIENG: My dad, he don't care about basketball. If you tell my dad about basketball, he just ignores you. All he cares is how I do in school, am I making good grades, do I not miss class, how do I do on my homework, that's all he needs. Any time he calls me he asks, "Are you healthy?" I say yeah. "Are you happy?" I say yeah. And then he says, "How's school?" That's the third question.
Q: WHAT WOULD YOUR DAD SAY ABOUT ONE-AND-DONE KIDS? WOULD HE LET YOU DO IT?
DIENG: I don't know what my dad gonna say about it. All I know is he cares about school more than anything. He's never going to let me like slide and stay away from school. I think he wants me to get my degree and be someone someday outside of basketball.
Q: YOU SAID MAKING IT TO THE NBA WOULD BE 70 PERCENT OF YOUR GOALS. WHAT'S THE OTHER 30?
DIENG: The other 30 percent is like, to be a role model. 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.
Q: WERE YOU A GOOD SOCCER PLAYER?
DIENG: Yeah. I was nice. I can show you some video. Midfield. Sometimes at forward.
DIENG ON BASKETBALL: You gotta understand how this game impacts my whole life. If I wasn't playing basketball, I couldn't meet a good person like Coach P. He's gonna teach you about everything in life, off the court and on the court. So I just feel blessed that I can play basketball, know different people in different countries, learn different cultures.
DIENG ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS FATHER: My dad, he taught me a lot. Because where I am from, my dad taught me how to share. A lot of people are selfish in this world right now. I'm just gonna give you a little example. When he was younger, every month my dad had his salary, he'd just put the money on the table like this, and people gonna make a big line because we got, back home, a lot of people don't have enough money to take care of themselves. I'm always close to my dad. My brothers, they're not, but I am. I know a lot about my dad that my brothers don't. You know? He always talk like, I made this money. I'm not going to save it for you, I'm going to give it to people that need it. If you want to make your own money, just go work for it. That's what he always told me. If you want to make your own money, go work for it. Don't want anything from me. I'm going to give you food. I'm gonna feed you well, I'm gonna get you clothes, I'm gonna take you to school, but don't ever think that you're going to get my money one day. If you want to have your own money, go work for it. Then he would take that money, and he gave it to the poor. He would buy them food, clothes, take their kids to get school stuff. And I learned from that. I want to be like him one day. Why not? Make my own money, helping poor people. Make my own money, helping people that need it. I think he's a role model to me, you know? And he told me how important school is. He told me, in this day right now, if you don't have any degrees, if you don't have anything, nothing to do, you're not going to be successful in this life. You need to be smart to be successful in this life.
Q: WHAT DO PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT LIFE IN SENEGAL?
DIENG: I'm not trying to, like, knock on anybody, but I think people have more morals back home than here. It's all about morals, I think. We got good people here? Yes. We got bad people at home? Yes. We got bad people everywhere. But I think people have more morals (in Senegal), because people live by communities. You are my neighbor, I know you, I know your daughters, your grandparents, we lived together for 50 years. So I'm going to know you inside out. People care more about it, they have more morals.
DIENG, ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF HIS GAME: When I got in college, Coach said you want to make it to the NBA, I'm going to show you how. He changed my whole mentality to play defense. He said I want you to focus on defense so much and not worry about offense. Like, you see me in the game, I never get frustrated that my teammates didn't pass me the ball. Do I get wide open and my teammates not pass me the ball? Yes. But I'm never gonna get frustrated. They say, "My bad," I say, "You're fine, you're fine." Because I know anybody can score. Even you (reporter) can score. Anybody can score. But you can't block shots. Few people have timing to block shots, or know how to play solid defense. . . . Any coach can get you to score 40 points, they just run a bunch of plays for you. If you don't care whether you make or miss or we win or lose. If coach wanted me to score 40 points tomorrow, he could do it, and we would lose the game. So I'm just gonna be patient, listen to him, because I know he's not going to put me in a situation where I'm gonna fail.
Cousins and Smart may have a meeting of the minds
Former University of Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins regularly kicks up as much attention for his demeanor as he does for his play. Give him points for consistency. It's been that way during this first two seasons in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings.
Cousins was fabulously productive last season, averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds, while leading the league in total offensive rebounds, averaging more than four per game.
But performance isn't always the story with Cousins. Behavior regularly crowds performance out of the way. Most like Cousins' game. Many don't care for his antics. Cousins clashed with former Sacramento coach Paul Westphal and was told to stay home for one game. He's taken verbal shots at Blake Griffin of the Clippers and other players.
Eventually the Kings fired Westphal, replacing him with Keith Smart, the same Keith Smart who made the game-winning shot in Indiana's 1987 NCAA championship game victory over Syracuse in New Orleans.
According to a story by SlamOnLine.com, it actually is possible for folks from UK and IU to get along because Cousins told the website that he wants to remain in Sacramento and play for Smart, who started visiting Cousins at his home last season.
"He'll just come over and have dinner," Cousins told Slam about Smart. "We're both guys from the South (Cousins from Alabama, Smart from Louisiana) and we love seafood.
"(Coach Smart) understands me. I understand him, and we're on the same page. He wants me to be great. He knows my talents, he wants me to show them. He believes in me."
Maybe Smart and Cousins can get together and work out the scheduling issues between their former schools.
Zeller "doesn't care" about losing UK on schedule
There will not be an Indiana-Kentucky basketball game next season – at least not during the regular season. That means the IU players won't get to make a return trip to Rupp Arena, even though Tom Crean was willing to make the journey.
But if you're looking for outrage about the pause in the series in the Hoosiers' locker room, you'd better look elsewhere. Cody Zeller, IU's sophomore player of the year candidate, said that not playing Kentucky is no big deal to him.
"I don't care too much," Zeller said. "We're still going to have a strong schedule. It was a fun game (during the regular season) last year, but I don't think it's too big of a deal that we're not playing them this year."
Siva, Zeller among most indispensable men
Who will be the most indispensable players in college basketball next season?
Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com is glad that you asked because he's already made his list. It is a list that includes not one, not two, but three local players.
Creighton forward Doug McDermott tops the list, followed by Cody Zeller at IU and Louisville point guard Peyton Siva. Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel is seventh on Medcalf's list.
Here is the complete rundown:
1. McDermott; 2. Zeller; 3. Siva; 4. Michigan point guard Trey Burke; 5. UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad; 6. Kansas center Jeff Withey; 7. Noel; 8. Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft; 9. Florida center Patric Young; and 10. Baylor guard Pierre Jackson.
The Notebook has several nominations:
1. Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan.
2. North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo.
3. Duke guard Seth Curry.
4. Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant.
5. Syracuse guard Brandon Triche.
Who are we missing? Send us your list.
South Florida looking to make a move up in the Big East
West Virginia is gone from the Big East. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are heading out the door. Is there another program with dreams of moving into the league's upper tier?
Maybe South Florida. Stop laughing.
The Bulls set a Big East record for defensive play last season, allowing less than 58 points per game by controlling tempo. They won 22 games, beating Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center on Senior Night. USF also won twice in the NCAA Tournament. USF rewarded Heath with a three-year contract extension, taking his contract through the 2017-18 season.
But Heath believes USF is primed for more than just one-hit wonder status. Why? Because South Florida has invested more than $35 million into renovating the Sun Dome and building a basketball practice and office complex.
Heath told Mike Waters of Basketball Times that more good times are coming for the Bulls.
"I think it (the improved facilities) is a game changer," Heath said. "The course for basketball at USF and in Tampa has changed dramatically. You are talking to an extremely happy coach."
The Sun Dome will reopen on Sept. 14 – with an Elton John concert. USF is one of U of L's double opponents next season, so the Cards will visit Heath's new palace.
Average Per Game Attendance Leaders By Conference for the 2011-12 Season
1. Big Ten, 12,868, 42 per game increase. 2. SEC, 11,513, 325 increase. 3. Big 12, 11,057, 341 increase. 4. Big East, 10,881, 442 decrease. 5. ACC, 9,876, 390 decrease.
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