Louisville center Gorgui Dieng takes a shot

Senegalese center Gorgui Dieng (pronounced GOR-gee Jeng) came to the United States three years ago as a tall, skinny teenager who spoke little English. He played one year of high school basketball at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, where he averaged 15 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks a game. Several American colleges and universities recruited the 2.11 meter (6 feet 11 inches) tall Dieng, with Coach Rick Pitino and The Cardinals of Louisville getting the Senegalese player to commit to their school.

Dieng told Coach Pitino he hoped to play professionally in the National Basketball Association. Pitino told Dieng he needed to improve his defense and his conditioning for his NBA dreams to come true. Since arriving in the USA, Dieng has worked on

Gorgui Deng is one of college basketball’s best shot blockers (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

getting stronger, and put on nearly 23 kilograms (50 pounds). He now weighs 106 kilograms (235 pounds), and in his words, Coach Pitino “changed my whole mentality to play defense.”

Dieng’s defense has helped lead Louisville to The Final Four in the U.S. men’s college basketball championship tournament. He’s blocked 124 shots this season – and he matched a Louisville tournament record March 22 with seven blocks in a game in a 57-44 “Sweet 16” victory over top-seeded Michigan State. Overall this season, Dieng is averaging about nine points, nine rebounds and three blocks a game.

On Saturday, the 22-year-old Dieng made a crucial block with less than a minute left in the game, helping preserve Louisville’s lead in a 72-68 victory over Florida. Gorgui Dieng’s American odyssey will now take him to New Orleans, Louisiana, where The Final Four semifinal games will be played March 31. Scouts have described Dieng as a good NBA prospect because of his defense, but whose offensive skills are still underdeveloped.

Even so, he’s shown tremendous improvement in a short period of time, and verbally, Gorgui Dieng now speaks five languages, the latest of which is English.