Senegal and the United States are not very far apart, Mamadou N’Diaye explained.
“It’s just the Atlantic” between the U.S. and the west African nation, he said. “If you want to take a swim, you can.”
About 4,000 miles separate Atlanta and Dakar, Senegal’s capital city and the hometown of Georgia Tech’s newest assistant basketball coach. With his hire, the figurative distance shortened considerably.
Coach Brian Gregory’s decision to hire N’Diaye from a similar position at Coastal Carolina could prove bountiful for a number of reasons. One of them is his connection to a recruiting market that Tech has not tapped with much regularity — Africa, and Senegal specifically.
“Mamadou was the first (Senegalese player drafted to the NBA), so they always will know who Mamadou is,” said Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis, who coached N’Diaye at Auburn. “So it’s an automatic entrée.”
Inroads into an African nation was not on the top of Gregory’s list when he sought to find a replacement for Josh Postorino, who had a mutual parting after three years on Gregory’s staff. Gregory said he wanted a coach who would contribute in the three main areas of recruiting, coaching and developing personal relationships with players, while adding value and bringing “something different.”
“We did a great job of being able to check off all three of those boxes with Mamadou,” he said.
N’Diaye played five NBA seasons after helping Auburn to a No. 4 AP ranking and later played internationally. Gregory liked that he played for Ellis and then Lenny Wilkens in the NBA, and coached for Ellis for three seasons at Coastal Carolina. Ellis has a reputation for developing big men, including N’Diaye.
“I’m a big guy on mentors, who he played for, who he worked under,” Gregory said.
Gregory said that even without his connections in Senegal, his recruiting work in the U.S., particularly in Florida and on the prep-school circuit, would have been enough.
“So the international piece was kind of an added bonus,” Gregory said.
It is a considerable bonus. He is good friends with Amadou Gallo Fall, who founded a basketball academy in Senegal that has sent dozens of players to play collegiately in the U.S., including former Yellow Jacket Mouhammad Faye. His brother also runs a sports academy in Senegal. While N’Diaye was not involved in Gregory’s recent signing of Senegalese big man Abdoulaye Gueye, N’Diaye already knew him. Gueye is one of a number of Senegalese players who call N’Diaye to ask for advice.
“Everybody knows everybody in Senegal,” he said. “It’s a small place.”
The three African players on the Coastal Carolina roster — two from Senegal, one from Cameroon — all were secured by N’Diaye. Badou Diagne, for example, came to Coastal Carolina in part because N’Diaye knew his coach through his participation on the national team. The three players were the leading rebounders on a team that won the Big South championship and took a halftime lead against No. 1 seed Virginia in the NCAA tournament.
“I knew the coach very well and he was just comfortable to send him under my care when we were recruiting him,” N’Diaye said.
It is an execution of a recruiting strategy encouraged by athletic director Mike Bobinski to seek out places where Tech can find athletes interested in the school’s academic rigor while also being able to compete in the ACC. The school’s new volleyball coaching hire, Michelle Collier, grew up in Brazil, became an All-American at South Florida and played internationally.
“It’s not that you can’t (recruit internationally), but it’s so much easier when you have somebody that has direct connections,” Bobinski said.
N’Diaye knows the way. Just get him to the Atlantic coast.