Former U of L center Gorgui Dieng has a major workout in front of NBA scouts Saturday in Los Angeles.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Gorgui Dieng, a center, led Louisville in a guard quality when the Cardinals defeated Michigan for the NCAA title last month. He delivered six assists – more than Peyton Siva, more than Trey Burke, more than any guard on the court for the NCAA championship game.
Dieng also grabbed eight rebounds. He blocked three shots. He made four of six field goal attempts, finishing with eight points.
Dieng played like a big man who can do things with the ball that smaller guys are expected to do, especially passing. It was final proof that Dieng did not need his senior season to surge into the first round of the NBA Draft.
Dieng is expected to be chosen as early as 12th and as late as 22nd in the 2013 NBA Draft June 27 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Dieng has one month to convince teams he belongs in the first dozen selections, instead of the first 22.
"What we're focusing on now is getting Gorgui an invitation to be in New York for the draft," said former NBA center Will Perdue. "We want him as close to the top 12 picks as possible. Gorgui can do that."
Perdue's voice is important here because he flew from Louisville to Los Angeles Sunday to resume instructional work with Dieng. For most of his 13-year career as an NBA center, Perdue was represented by agent Arn Tellem. Dieng's agent is Makhtar N'Diaye, who works with Tellem at Wasserman Media Group.
Dieng is one of four projected centers in this draft that will be instructed by Perdue for the next month. The others are Jeff Withey of Kansas, Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga and Steven Adams of Pittsburgh. All four project as first-round selections. Perdue started working with big men in 2003. His first pupil was Chris Kaman, who was drafted sixth and just finished his 10th NBA season.
On Saturday, Dieng, Withey, Adams and Olynyk will scrimmage and work out with 14 other draft picks in front of representatives of all 30 teams at a Los Angeles high school. The teams want to see the Gorgui Dieng who did everything in the NCAA final, not the one who did not score in U of L's semifinal win over Wichita State.
"We want Gorgui at his absolute best," Perdue said. "Several teams will have two or three guys there, including their general managers and top scouts. It's a major workout, a chance to make a huge positive impression."
It will also be Dieng's first workout for NBA representatives since he suffered an ankle sprain several weeks ago. Dieng appeared at the NBA Draft scouting combine in Chicago in a walking boot. He was unable to participate in drills. Teams know he averaged 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds for Rick Pitino. They always want to see more.
"He helped himself there," Perdue said. "Everybody I talked with said that Gorgui interviewed well, which isn't surprising. He's a bright, personable guy. He's funny. I've enjoyed working with him and hearing his stories."
"I play good enough defense to play in the NBA," Dieng said in one of several interviews that were videotaped in Chicago. "I'm willing to work … I will stay in the gym and do whatever it takes to become a better basketball player."
Dieng actually got a head start on the others. He began his workouts with Perdue in Louisville last month. Footwork. Catching the ball. Faking. Ball-handling. The usual areas where big men must improve to succeed against the best players in the world.
"Gorgui's a very good player," Perdue said. "I saw him play many times at U of L and knew how good he was. There were times when I thought he couldn't shoot. But he's a better shooter and passer than I thought. He's going to have a very nice pro career."
That doesn't mean Perdue did not have to chirp at Dieng several times. Perdue asked Dieng to give him his complete concentration for two months. His first request?
Scratch fast-food from his daily menu.
"He came to a workout one morning with a bag of food from McDonald's," Perdue said. "I asked him what he was doing. He said he didn't have anybody cooking for him anymore and just grabbed something on the way to the gym. He can't do that any more."
Not if Gorgui Dieng wants to achieve his goal of becoming one of the first dozen picks in the 2013 NBA Draft.