You heard right, John Wall is the longest tenured Washington Wizard. He was drafted first overall in 2010; Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker were taken in the same draft, but acquired via trade. Wall’s 4,992 NBA minutes are also twice the number logged by JaVale McGee, the Wizard with the second most minutes played over the last two seasons. Yep, 32 players aside from Wall have donned a Wizards uniform in the 148 team games over the 26-plus months since the “Game Changer” was introduced to the District on a red carpet. By the beginning of the 2012-13 season, the total number of Wall’s teammates in Washington will have climbed to 37, at least.
All those boarding on and off the USS Wizards had memorable moments good or bad (or infamous). Mike Bibby played the least amount of minutes over the last two seasons, but did score a single basket for the Wiz, and Truth About It.net was there to capture his thought-provoking reaction. Mustafa Shakur saw 159 minutes of action, 24th most, and got a whole DC Sports Bog post dedicated to his jersey malfunction. Othyus Jeffers, 314 minutes, 21st most, is still remembered and missed by faithful followers of the team.
Hamady N’diaye played 83 total minutes, 28th most, and was also drafted in 2010 (56th overall), but spent much more time on the Verizon Center practice gym than he did under the lights of the main court. N’diaye, known as “H,” is still highly regarded by Wizards team executives. “Look at the meat hook!,” exclaimed one with endearment as N’diaye threw up a sweeping hook shot at the 2012 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas as a member of the Charlotte Bobcats; it missed.
What “H” is most remembered for is his positive attitude, his resilience during challenging life experiences, and his smile. Someone has to contrast the parade of bad characters who have hogged the attention of Wizards fans over recent seasons. What makes N’diaye’s story stick is that he comes from Senegal (discovered via the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program); that he had to deal with escaping a questionable prep school basketball experience in the U.S.; and that he prevailed against the odds, graduated from Rutgers as the Big East Defensive POY, and got drafted by the NBA.
The Washington Wizards waived N’diaye in February 2012, mostly to provide roster flexibility leading up to the trade deadline, partially because he simply needs more development for the League. It wasn’t at all because of his positively infectious character; team’s can only yearn for a roster full of players with N’diaye’s spirit. After getting cut, he spent some time with the Maine Red Claws, his third D-League team after the Dakota Wizards and Iowa Energy, affiliate teams of the Wizards where “H” was previously sent to hone his skills. In 13 games with the Red Claws, N’diaye put up a PER of 16.0, similar to prior stints in the D-League. In May 2012, a new experience: China.
Hamady spent 18 games from May through June with Guangzhou Liu Sui Whampoa of China’s National Basketball League (NBL), a semi-pro league that’s a second division from China’s main professional basketball league, the CBA. Former NBA draft pick and one-time Wizards pre-draft workout participant, Walter Sharpe (taken 32nd by the Super Sonics in 2008), also played in China’s NBL last season.
“H” dominated in China. He averaged 43.7 minutes per game over his 18 contests — you can imagine, in a Chinese league with limits on import players, that the former Big East defensive player of the year would find plenty of action on the court. N’diaye averaged 17.6 points (on a whopping 70.2 field goal percentage, 70.8 percent on free throws), 14.3 rebounds, 6.7 blocks, 1.1 assists, 2.6 turnovers, and 2.3 fouls. He then left what must’ve felt like a basketball video game atmosphere to play in what must’ve felt like detention, the NBA Summer League.
N’diaye got slightly more run with the Indiana Pacers at the Orlando summer league (July 9-13) than he did with the Bobcats in Las Vegas (July 13-22). With Indiana, as the main center behind Miles Plumlee, N’diaye saw action in four of five games, averaged 10.5 minutes, 2.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, and 0.5 steals, but he only made one out of every four shots he attempted. With Charlotte in Vegas, he played four games (out of five), averaged four minutes, one point, one rebound, and half-a-block per game, and he made two out of every five shots he took.
N’diaye obviously didn’t become a household name amongst NBA decision-makers with his summer league play, so what now? I caught up with the former Wizard for a Q&A session after the Bobcats’ third game in Las Vegas.
On where he’s seen his game grow:
A lot of offense and confidence, that’s basically the main thing that gets better every single time. I went out to China, actually, before the summer league just to stay in shape and play a little bit more, a couple of games and everything. It was a great experience going out there, just to get my confidence straight and come back here. So my offense is definitely one area of my game that developed a lot in the past couple of months.
Where does he want to continue to grow?
As a free agent right now it would be basically getting somebody to give me a chance and just get out there and play, show what I really can do. I haven’t really had the chance to show the world what I can really do on the court. But I’m using it right now, practicing, just came from Orlando to Vegas and joined the team and got used to everything. Now it’s just the playing time that I’m waiting for. I’m ready to show the world what I can do now.
What was the experience in China like?
It’s an adventure, it is definitely an adventure. I enjoyed going out there for a lot of reasons. Yea, obviously the playing time and getting to see another country, just seeing how other things are, getting to learn a different style of play and things like that. It was a good thing, at the same time it was rough, too. It’s China, the living conditions are kind of different than America or Africa or anywhere else, so I had to adjust to that. But it was a great thing coming from the D-League, playing good in the D-League, then finishing it off in China. That definitely boosted my confidence a lot more than you can even imagine, just to be ready for summer league basically.
What was the toughest adjustment?
The culture was one thing I really had to get adjusted to, but the food. The food was really, really rough on me. I mean, I’m used to African food, love American food, I could not handle Chinese food, and it’s a different Chinese food. Chinese food over there and Chinese food over here are completely two different things, it’s not what you think. So I had to get adjusted to that, but it was fun. I did two months out there and I definitely enjoyed it.
Showing what I can do on a systematic basis where I can show that I have offense, I have defense, I have everything that is needed. I play hard all the time and my work ethic is the same everyday. It’s just basically the wait. I keep working and keep my head straight, just wait for that time basically. Everything should be fine. I’m patient enough, never complain about anything, so I should be OK.
If the NBA remains a step away, will he look to stay close in the D-League, or will he play professionally overseas?
To be honest, I’m looking forward to making it back into the NBA. I haven’t really decided if I really want the option of going overseas yet, but it is an option. Every option is a great option if you know how to use it. Being in the NBA is definitely my No. 1 goal. If it doesn’t work out, well, D-League might be an option, but probably not for too long. At the end of the day, we all trying to survive. So however it is, if I got to go get more experience overseas and play a little more, hey, I have to do what I gotta do. I don’t mind opening it up to options, but NBA is definitely my No. 1 goal right now.
With African countries Nigeria and Tunisia both competing in men’s basketball at the 2012 London Olympics — the first appearance for each country and just the fourth time the continent of Africa has fielded two men’s basketball teams in the Olympics — I also asked N’diaye, being a native of Senegal, about the state of basketball in Africa.
Note: The following African countries have competed in Olympic basketball: Egypt (1936, ‘48, ‘52, ‘72, ‘76, ‘84, and ‘88); Angola (1992, ‘96, ‘00, ‘04, and ‘08); Senegal (1968, ‘72, and ‘80); Central African Republic (1988); Morocco (1968); Nigeria (2012); and Tunisia (2012).
On the state of basketball in Africa:
Definitely it’s a big growth. African basketball comes from basically one of the last spots if you think about it. And we’re just trying to conquer, trying to open up to the world. Having two countries right now in the Olympics is a very big deal for every single country because we support each other when it’s about that time. I think in the next couple of years things are opening up. A lot of players are in the NBA from Africa, and we’re doing a lot of things around to world to help that grow as much as we can. I definitely see it getting a lot bigger in the next couple of years, and hopefully we have more than two teams in the next Olympics as well.
On the importance of NBA investment on the continent:
It’s great, it’s a big thing; not just for young kids, for a lot of generations — the ones that came before. It gives you a lot more confidence for the guys that get to experience that as a young child, having Basketball Without Borders and all those camps out there. Players coming down and visiting, giving back and things like that are things that honestly help the world a lot more. Just having an entire generation looking up to others and knowing that there is other options around the world, giving them that confidence that it’s possible to make it further than just what you see in your country, and it’s something big. And for African countries, Asian countries, all those countries that basically still need a little boost to take it to the next level, I think the NBA is doing definitely a great job of exploring their options and going worldwide with the players they already have. And the giving back that they are doing around the world, so it’s a great thing.
N’diaye says that once he gets his professional situation sorted out (hopefully in the NBA), that he would look forward to taking part in Senegal’s national basketball program. At the 2011 FIBA Africa tournament, Senegal finished 3-0 in group play, but lost to the Ivory Coast in the second round of the elimination tournament.
As far as the Wizards, N’diaye says he still talks to many of the current Wiz Kids (at least those still around when he was on the team), especially Trevor Booker, who he calls one of his best friends.
“They still my family. I mean, that was my first NBA team, and I still got a lot of close friends on there, and that relationship I think is always going to last.”