Mamadou Ndiaye: A giant waiting to emerge

Mamadou Ndiaye is unlike any other student basketball player in the United States. Standing at 7ft 5in, he is the tallest player in college basketball. Currently, there is no taller player even in the NBA. In a game where height is an advantage, Mamadou is ahead of his peers.

He was born in Senegal 19 years ago and no one would have thought the tall, rangy boy would go on to achieve great things. The Wollof and Madinka tribes (Senegal and Gambia) have physical characteristics that define Mamadou but even then, this boy has grown taller than most would have anticipated.

Mamadou was “discovered” in 2010 in his native country by international scouts and with the help of Simi Valley Stoneridge Prep High School, he moved to the California on a Student Visa. Upon arriving, it was discovered that he had a serious medical condition, which had enhanced his growth but could prove detrimental in the future.

An extensive medical examination revealed that he had a large tumor in his pituitary gland. If the condition wasn’t treated urgently, it could lead to further complications such as nerve damage and blindness. Due to the school’s inability to pay for the treatment, a fundraising drive was organized to help the budding lad’s treatment. In addition to a successful fundraising campaign, a local family adopted him and became his legal guardians.

As with most other big players, his all round game is very raw. Former coach, Jon Bahnsen, once claimed that Mamadou’s game was basically “catch, turn, drop-step, dunk”. However, progress has been made in the past two years. There have been slight improvements in his overall game though he needs to continue working hard. His calm and gentle disposition has endeared him to many fans and watchers.

These days, he plays for UC Irvine and great things are expected from the Giant of Senegal.In a recent game against Oregon, Mamadou matched up against 5ft 8 guard Jonathan Loyd. The height difference was so much and in many ways, quite comical. There will be more mismatches in the coming years as he continues to improve and establish his credentials. Mamadou wants to be known for his all around ability and talents, not just his height. If he keeps on working hard, this little giant (310 pounds), who enjoys Chinese food so much, will be unstoppable by opponents and invaluable to his team.


Tony Eboh

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