Senegal’s Dieng sees basketball on rise in Africa, Spain’s Rubio excited for more European exposure

Gorgui Dieng of the Minnesota Timberwolves says he 'absolutely' sees basketball spreading in Africa.
Gorgui Dieng of the Minnesota Timberwolves goes up with the ball against the New York Knicks last week. Jim Mone / AP Photo
Gorgui Dieng of the Minnesota Timberwolves goes up with the ball against the New York Knicks last week. Jim Mone / AP Photo

Like his Cameroonian counterpart Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng believes basketball is on the rise in Africa.

Dieng, a first-round pick out of the University of Louisville in 2013, participated in the 2009 Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa. The Minnesota Timberwolves forward, in his fourth season now ensconced in the team’s starting five, probably counts as one of the programme’s most notable graduates.

In his four years in the NBA, he has fashioned himself a long-armed, intimidating defensive force inside, with some nice finishing skills around the hoop and the ability to occasionally knock down a shot from a little further out.

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Asked if he sensed “a growing interest in basketball in Africa of late” he responded in an NBA release: “Absolutely.”

“We get here because we’ve been helped,” Dieng said, referencing the Basketball Without Borders programme. “We got help.

“I think we have to return the favour back and help other people to get here too.”

Mbah a Moute, of the Los Angeles Clippers, said last week that basketball in Africa “is still not where it needs to be, it’s still not where soccer is, but it’s growing, which is a good thing.

“Now I think basketball is stepping up to become the second sport in Africa.”

There are as many as 16 NBA players this season with direct ties to Africa, either being from the continent, representing one of its countries internationally or having been born there before moving elsewhere.

Dieng, averaging about 10 points and five rebounds a game this year for Minnesota, also spoke about his on-court duties next to emerging superstar Karl-Anthony Towns in the Minnesota frontcourt.

“I mean, I’m just out there to cover up his mess,” he said. “He’s not going to play a perfect game. Everybody’s out there rooting for him and a lot of the offensive game is going through him. I just have to be patient and play off him.”

The team’s point guard, Ricky Rubio, also spoke about basketball’s global reach. The Spaniard noted that the “NBA Sunday” initiative, to offer a weekly showcase game at times more amenable to the European audience, was something he would have liked growing up.

“Growing up in Europe, I wanted to watch NBA, but it was tough because it’s a different time,” he said. “But they set a time where it’s a good time in Europe to watch a game, so it’s great.”

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Published: December 7, 2016 04:00 AM

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