Why should you care about the 56th pick? These guys rarely make NBA teams, right?
Not this year, not with the Wizards.
And regardless, you should be intrigued by Hamady N’diaye, the man who is simply known as “H” wherever he goes. It’s easy to see what attracted the Wizards to N’diaye, he exemplifies Ted Leonsis’ “Business of Happiness” philosophy.
Growing up in Senegal, N’diaye didn’t find basketball as a serious outlet until around age 15, mostly playing soccer when he was young like Solomon Alabi and others from the African continent. But with height as a natural tool (he now measures 6’10.5″ without shoes with a 7’6″ wingspan — Saunders says he can touch about 12’7″ on the backboard), N’diaye saw an opportunity and jumped on it. He left his family and came to the U.S. at 16, by himself and speaking very little English, to pursue a career in basketball.
Going from the Life Center Academy in New Jersey, then to Florida Prep, where he and a couple friends/teammates from his home country had to literally escape from poor conditions in the middle of the night, and finally ending up at Stoneridge Prep in California, you could easily call making it to the NBA a long shot for N’diaye.
Four years of basketball conditioning at Rutgers later, where he leaves as the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots (his 4.5 per game average was third highest in the nation last season) and reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year, N’diaye finds himself a member of the Washington Wizards — six total years of competitive basketball experience and counting.
But the 23-year old is not just happy with where the game of basketball has taken him, he is a personable young man who sees the importance of being active in his community, another aspect in tune with the preachings of Leonsis.
In addition to being team captain, team MVP and team defensive MVP during his senior season at Rutgers, N’diaye was heavily involved in the community during his four years of college. “Read Across America,” “Toys for Tots,” “Get out the Vote,” fund-raising walks, a student-athlete academic mentor … Hamady did it all and more, culminating with him being named a finalist for the 2010 Lowe’s Senior Class Award.
And I’m not even getting into N’diaye’s scholastic achievements and recognition. He made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll three times, in addition to racking up other scholar-athlete awards, and recently graduated with a degree in communications. Hard to imagine that he hasn’t been speaking English for very long, but easy to imagine his hard work in life translating to success on the court … even if the raw defensive talent still has a long way to go as a player.
After he was introduced as a Washington Wizard on Tuesday, along with 23rd overall pick Trevor Booker, I spent some time talking to the personable Hamady (video below). Call me impressed.
- “Hamady N’diaye has been picture of persistence at Rutgers,” NewJerseyNewsroom.com, Mar. 4, 2010, Mike Vorkunov.
- “Senegal to U.S.: A brotherhood of basketball,” NewJerseyNewsroom.com, Jan. 18, 2010, Mike Vorkunov.
- “Big Charisma: Rutgers’ freshman center filling a tall order,” The Star-Ledger, Dec. 31, 2006, Donna Gialanella.