‘A piece of clay’ – Pistons embrace Doumbouya, whose molding starts in Summer League

Sekou Doumbouya will wear No. 45 for the Pistons and make his debut in Summer League on July 5.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Malik Rose wasn’t part of the Pistons contingent that ventured to Texas a few weeks ago. He was 300 miles south of Sekou Doumbouya’s pro day workout for NBA teams in Frisco at his niece’s graduation ceremony in San Antonio.

After Doumbouya’s display was over, the Pistons assistant general manager got a call. Told him he didn’t miss much – because what he’d missed was so spectacular that whatever slim chance the Pistons had to get Doumbouya with the 15th pick had just evaporated.

Dwane Casey caught all of it. He, along with Pistons front-office chief Ed Stefanski and player personnel director Gregg Polinsky, caught an eyeful.

“Sekou, I told him I didn’t think he’d ever see us again,” Casey said. “We got lucky.”

Most of the teams who attended Doumbouya’s workout were picking ahead of the Pistons. As Doumbouya knocked down 15 straight 3-pointers – answering questions about one of the few areas where there was doubt about the 18-year-old who grew up in France but was born in Guinea – Casey figured the writing was on the wall.

“We were very fortunate,” Stefanski said Friday as the Pistons introduced Doumbouya and handed him a Pistons No. 45 jersey. “We never thought it was going to happen. I’d rather be lucky than good and that’s what happened last night.”

Stefanski called the two Americans who played on Doumbouya’s Limoges team in France’s top division and heard reports that were as impressive as what he and Polinsky had seen on their scouting mission to France.

“They both raved about the kid and they gave me the same scouting report,” Stefanski said. “As a person first, what a great young man he is, what a great teammate he is. And he loves to play basketball. When you hear he loves to play basketball, that’s the best thing you can hear.”

In demeanor and in skill set, Casey can’t help but think of a similarly built young player he coached for two seasons in Toronto, 2016 No. 1 pick Pascal Siakam. But Siakam was 22 after spending two years at New Mexico State when Casey got his hands on him as a Raptors rookie.

“Similar running the floor and athleticism as far as leaping ability and that type of thing,” Casey said. “He’s a jet running the floor like Pascal, so it should increase our speed. His length, his size, his ability to switch positions is something that catches your eye. We have to keep in mind he’s 18 years old.”

Doumbouya, in fact, won’t turn 19 until Dec. 23 – meaning if he’d been born nine days later he wouldn’t have been eligible for the 2019 draft. Whether that makes it realistic to expect him to play a meaningful role as a rookie, well, stay tuned. It will help that the Pistons will have all summer to work with him. Casey confirmed that Doumbouya will play in Summer League, which starts July 5.

“He’s going to come here now and stay,” Casey said. “He’s not going back (to France), so he’s ours. That’s what I love about him. It’ll be like a piece of clay for us. It’s going to be a village. All of (Casey’s coaching staff), all hands on deck with him. He’ll definitely be in Summer League, which is great.”

Doumbouya, 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, only took up basketball as a 13-year-old, he said Friday. One of his soccer buddies urged him to tag along to his basketball practice, but Doumbouya wanted no part of it. About a month later, the friend encouraged Doumbouya’s mother to urge him to give it a try.

“She said, ‘Try one time. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it,’ ” Doumbouya said. “I try one time and then I loved it.”

Doumbouya also took just that quickly to Casey after meeting him in Dallas and sitting down with Casey, Stefanski and Polinsky.

“I love everything (about Casey),” Doumbouya said. “I love what he do with the team. I love what he do with Pascal Siakam, one of my favorite players right now. I’m just happy to be here to work with him.”

Casey, sitting to Doumbouya’s side, could only beam.

“We’re going to get along just fine,” he said.

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