By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
While the NBA Draft is probably one of the last things on Youssou Ndoye’s mind right now, Wednesday night’s performance should put him in the minds of NBA scouts.
While Ndoye is not as fundamentally sound as most pro centers, his domination of George Mason in Rochester was the latest case for a team to take a flyer pick on him in June. His 28-point, 13-rebound game was filled with dazzling dunks and lock-down defense as he outperformed Mason’s Shevon Thompson, who is having a spectacular first season of D-I ball.
The biggest knock on the Bona big man has been his inconsistency, mainly offensively. Sometimes he looks like a sure-fire second round pick; a raw talent who could be developed into a veteran backup center in the league. We saw that in the Niagara win when he scored 23 points, the Buffalo game when he had 17 and even the Maryland-Eastern Shore loss when he had 18. In those three games he went a combined 20-33 from the floor and 18-22 from the free-throw line, very solid numbers.
Other times the 7-footer looks like an average player, at least offensively. In fairness, he has only played competitive ball for six years, much less experience than most of his teammates and competitors. He was a soccer player in his native Senegal, so his hands are not the best, nor are his post moves. The deficiencies showed in losses to Siena, Pittsburgh and Dayton.
Which Ndoye will we see on any given night? No one really knows the answer until he hits the court, and the Jekyll and Hyde nature of his offensive game is what will shy some franchises away from considering him come draft time.
Another knock is his size. The average NBA center weighs about 254 pounds. Ndoye is listed at 245, which means that if he makes it to the league he is going to have to bulk up a bit. This is a common task for rookies entering their first summer league and preseason, however, so his smaller frame is not likely to be a deal-breaker for scouts.
What has been consistent about the senior’s game from the very beginning is his defense. He has grabbed double-digit rebounds 11 times this season and is averaging 11.1 boards per game. His ten-game run of ten or more rebounds from the Canisius game in November to the UMass game at the start of this month was tied for the longest streak in the NCAA. He’s also averaging 2.9 blocks a game this year, good for 20th in the country. Blocking shots has always been one of his strong suits, and it gives his team and the Reilly Center crowd a lot of energy. The offense may not show up on any given night, but the defense has always been there.
The basketball acumen has always been there as well. In his freshman year Ndoye got to learn from 2012 first round pick Andrew Nicholson, and the experience was invaluable for him. He was able to be a big contributor on an Atlantic 10 championship team, providing major minutes in the conference and NCAA tournaments. While the coaching staff deserves a large portion of the credit for his development, Nicholson’s intelligence and work ethic definitely rubbed off on his young protege. Now, Ndoye is the captain of this team, facilitating the communication on both ends of the floor and leading this team in the direction they need to go. The Bonnies go as he goes, which is credit to not only his size and strength but his smarts on the court as well.
The six forwards/centers who heard their names called in the second combined for 15.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game in their senior seasons. Ndoye’s afore-mentioned 11.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per contest in the first half of his final collegiate year stack up very well to those numbers. While he has not been the first option offensively, he is still averaging a double-double and having a couple monster games that elevate his draft stock.
Ndoye’s chances to hear his name called by commissioner Adam Silver on draft night are still a bit of a reach, but before February of his senior season Nicholson wasn’t exactly a lock either. When he had a six-point outing in an unthinkable loss to Arkansas State at home in December, the draft was the last thing on many people’s minds. That game followed a loss to Virginia Tech where he only scored nine points and preceded seven and nine point games against Saint Francis (PA) and Niagara later that month. No one knew what Nicholson and the Bonnies, who were 9-6 through their first 15 games that season as well, were going to do in March. It’s all about getting hot at the right time, which is what this year’s Bona basketball team hopes to accomplish.
Will Youssou Ndoye be drafted at the conclusion of this season? There’s still a lot of basketball to play, and we’ll definitely revisit this when the time comes, but if he keeps putting on a show like he did Wednesday night he definitely has a shot. His big performances this season should be enough to have some pro scouts braving the Olean weather to watch the 7-footer battle.