Q&A: Gorgui Dieng | Part II
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Editor’s Note: Wolves center Gorgui Dieng spoke with Timberwolves.com’s Mark Remme during an exclusive 1-on-1 interview this weekend after being named to the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team last week. Dieng is currently working out at the University of Minnesota while in town, and he plans to spend part of his break back in his native Senegal. Part II of this Q&A focuses on Gorgui’s offseason and his involvement in the NBA's Live, Learn and Play initiative in Senegal earlier this month.
You spent some time in May over in your native Senegal as part of the Live, Learn and Play initiative. How long were you there and what you did while you there as part of that program?
I was there for a month, you know. Live, Learn and Play is a great program to help the Senegalese community—helping the school, building basketball courts and have some clinics to help teach the kids and the coaches. So I think it’s a great program for the Senegalese people, and I think if anybody gets the chance, learn anything they can.
You were part of Basketball Without Borders growing up, and I remember having a conversation with you about Dwight Howard being over there and getting a chance to meet him. I think he even told you, ‘I’ll see you in the NBA one day.’ For you, having that experience, what did it mean to your development?
That was great, you know, I used to just see the people on TV. And one day they’re right in front of you, and they’re trying to teach you the game. And I take full advantage when I was there, trying to learn everything. That built my confidence and made me believe that I could one day be a pro.
What was your message to the kids?
Just to learn, learn the game. That is the most important part. Just to learn the game and respect your elders. Because when Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh came, I was just paying full attention and listening to what they were saying because they had more experience than me. I think if you do that, that will help you in the long run.
Did you get a chance to catch up with Dwight at all during the brief moments in the Houston games this year to say, hey, I made it!
Well the first time we played the Rockets, I didn’t play. So in the moment he came on the court he said, ‘You made it!’ I said yeah, I did. It just took a minute and he walked by. And I think the game here when I made that last shot, if you watch him, you can see he came, he left from his bench and came all the way to the middle to just say, ‘Great job and just keep working.’ I think people like that have a great positive mind to just help motivate the young players in this league. Because the NBA is very, very tough.
That’s a great memory, by the way, not only having the game-winning shot against Houston but also having that experience with Howard being there as well. Is that the biggest moment or memory that stands out as being: This is what I’ll remember most from my rookie season?
Good or bad? I think more for me, I was just so nervous that I could hold myself to being in good shape. Because I didn’t play for a long time, and I was just, I knew there was going to be a good chance no matter what. It’s 82 games, and there are a lot of games. I was so nervous that I was just asking myself all the time, If I get this chance I’m going to use it in the right way. That was the toughest part for me, that’s why I was working all the time. I was making sure I was in good shape when I got back in.
You have a chance now going into the offseason one year down. Everyone is curious what’s going to happen after coach Rick Adelman retired. How are you getting yourself prepared knowing there will be change next year but at the same time there will be a lot of people in that locker room that will be going through that change with you?
Like you said, it’s not my business. You know, I’m not worried about the things I can’t control. I will make sure I will be ready to play. I will be in good shape, and I will work on my body and my game. We will see, you know, that’s not something I will control. I will be ready to play. That’s one thing I will know.
Last year you played on the Summer League squad. Has there been any conversation about you playing on this year’s Summer League squad?
That’s not my decision. I’m here, and I will listen to Flip and the guys that have to make that decision. The one thing I know is I will be here, and I will be ready to play.
When you were on the Summer League roster last year, was that a nice stepping stone for going into your rookie year? What did you take away from that experience?
I think that’s a different game. Summer League and the NBA game is like high school and college. It’s a different game, and it’s a guard showcase. You know, the guards can do anything they want and the bigs just play in the paint. But it’s a different game, you know?