Mamadou Ndiaye isn’t able to blend in with a crowd, so he embraces the attention.
That’s probably the best way to approach everyday tasks when you’re a 7-foot-6, 300-pound center trying to prove you deserve the opportunity to make an NBA roster.
Ndiaye, one of six players participating in the Kings’ predraft workout Tuesday, entered the draft after three seasons at UC Irvine, where he brought recognition to a school not known for producing NBA players.
Ndiaye, who withdrew his name from last year’s draft pool but has had more positive feedback this year, said it was “tough for me to walk around” campus at times last season, but the experience was positive.
“I enjoyed it a lot because a team like UCI never has been real good at basketball, but when I got there, things started to change and I was so happy about that,” Ndiaye said. “Our games started getting packed, every game a sellout, and that made me more excited. They said that’s never happened before.”
Ndiaye averaged 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks last season for the Anteaters, who finished 28-10 and lost to Columbia in the CollegeInsider.com tournament championship game. The Anteaters might have made the NCAA Tournament had they not been upset by Long Beach State in the Big West Conference tournament.
He was a first-team All-Big West selection in 2015-16 and twice was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. His 218 blocks are the most in school history.
Ndiaye still is relatively new to basketball. When he arrived in the United States from Senegal in 2010, he was more adept at soccer than basketball. He had a health scare when it was discovered a tumor in his pituitary gland was causing his growth. He was 7-4 when he started high school in the United States, he said.
In preparation for predraft workouts, Ndiaye said he’s been playing in the Drew League in Los Angeles. It’s one of the premier pro-am leagues in the country.
Ndiaye understands the intrigue with him and his game. Rarely does someone his height with a wingspan of more than 8 feet come around, especially at a school like UC Irvine.
“Everything I do, I just do it for the fans,” Ndiaye said. “Because it’s not about the money. Sometimes people want to see your success. Sometimes they want to see you fall down. But just do it for the fans. That’s what I did.”
The other players at Tuesday’s workout were guards Nick Faust (Long Beach State), Anthony Beane (Southern Illinois) and Codi Miller-McIntyre (Wake Forest), forward Venky Jois (Eastern Washington) and center Mike Tobey (Virginia).