Born in Senegal, 7'4 Mamadou Ndiaye came to America in 2010 to attend high school and pursue his dream of playing professional basketball. Shortly thereafter, he received a health scare as doctors found a tumor on his pituitary gland
, which threatened not only his basketball future, but his overall health long-term. Doctors were able to remove the tumor and Ndiaye went on to attend UC Irvine, where he averaged 15 points, 11.7 rebounds and 6.0 blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted in 21.8 minutes.
Ndiaye was measured at 7'4 in 2012 along with a wingspan of 8'1, the longest in our database
. While his size and length puts him on draft radars, the rest of physical tools may not measure up in today's NBA. As many players of his size are, Ndiaye struggles to get up and down the floor effectively, particularly after being in the game for more than a few minutes at a time. Once he's over the half-court line, his mobility is solid for a player his size, but his conditioning needs a lot of work and it's unclear whether the vastly different rules in the NBA (shorter shot clock, defensive three second rule) and much quicker pace of each possession will allow him to remain effective. He also needs to bulk up and add strength and has plenty of room to do so on his 290 pound frame.
Using his tremendous size advantage in the Big West, Ndiaye was able to score in the post almost at will and showed some nice footwork in the process. He's so big and long that he can dunk the ball without even jumping as long as he catches it reasonably close to the paint.
As the only seven footer in the conference (with the second biggest player who played at least twenty minutes measured at 6'10), Ndiaye often was able to just turn and shoot an easy hook shot over his opponent when he got position. He needs to improve his touch around the rim, as many of these hook shots had too much power and clanged badly off the rim. While he was effective when gaining deep post-position on the block, he was too easily pushed away from the rim because of his lack of strength. Beyond that, Ndiaye doesn't currently possess the skill-level necessary to score when he was not directly around the basket, but considering how new to the game he is, that isn't particularly surprising.
Ndiaye struggled when matched up against fellow seven footers and major conference big men in several matchups against Pac 12 competition. He struggled to score against big men of similar height, especially Arizona State's 7'2 Jordan Bachynski. When defenders were tall enough to challenge his shot, he struggled to find other ways to contribute with the ball in his hands. UC Irvine has only one major conference matchup this season as Ndiaye will face seven footer Kaleb Tarczewski, so a nice showing by Ndiaye will certainly go a long way.
One area he can improve on to make him a more efficient post player is his passing out of the post. Ndiaye generated just six assists in all of last season in 696 minutes of action, with a 1.8% assist percentage that ranked as the fourth worst rate in all of college basketball. Historically speaking, only a handful of college players have been drafted the past 15 years after posting such a poor assist percentage, and all of them were one (or usually more) seasons removed from that after spending time improving their feel for the game.
25% of Ndiaye's post-possessions ended in a turnover last season, the third worst rate in college basketball among players with 100+ possessions. While he was able to hit a terrific 69% of the shots he did
get off with his back to the basket, his outrageously high turnover rate dragged his overall scoring effectiveness under a point per possession in these situations.
Ndiaye was asked to control the paint in the middle of a 2-3 zone for UC Irvine, so we don't have a major sense of how he will be able to matchup in a man to man defense, especially guarding ball screens. He was active in the zone, moving his feet well in the small area he was asked to defend to challenge shots and stop penetration. He is slow at times to react to passes and cutters and needs to improve his awareness to see the action develop.
He did protect the rim incredibly well, leading the nation with 6.0 blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted
. His length allows him to wait on the shot to be released and he has good instincts to help him block shots. He is vulnerable in the post as stronger players can back him down and draw fouls as Ndiaye committed 5.5 fouls per 40 minutes pace adjusted last season.
It will be interesting to watch Ndiaye's development in his second season and see how he grows as a player. Despite being just a sophomore, he is already listed at 21 years old and would be one of the oldest players in his class. The Arizona matchup in the second game of the year will provide a nice baseline for Ndiaye's progress in the offseason and could be a launching point to a strong season.
While Ndiaye's unprecedented combination of height and length will draw the attention of scouts, he will have to answer questions regarding his strength and conditioning, skill level, and health to become a serious draft prospect. As a sophomore, Ndiaye hopes to lead UC Irvine to its first ever NCAA tournament bid after falling short in the conference tournament last season, while continuing to learn the game.