"I was so happy," said Dieng (pronounced GOR-gee Deng). "I had just come to this school and started practicing, and then they called me and said I couldn't play. You don't know how happy I am. I can't wait to get in there and block some shots. I always said I was going to come back. I always said it. I'm just going to focus on listening to coach and playing. That's what is most important for me: just listening to coach and playing."
Before Dieng won his appeal, good news had been in short supply for Rick Pitino's program this off-season. First, there was the unexpected departure of sophomore center Samardo Samuels to the NBA. Then, there was the ineligibility of star recruit Justin Coleman, followed by the denial of a waiver for Memphis transfer Roburt Sallie. Next came a few key recruiting misses, namely Quincy Miller to Baylor, and a slew of injuries to Jared Swopshire (hernia), Russ Smith (foot), Elisha Justice (fracture rib) and Stephen Van Treese (ankle).
Talent InfusionLouisville's roster needed a talent infusion and Gorgui Dieng provides it. A former Top 50 prospect, Dieng showed during the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic why he had overseas offers to turn pro coming out of Huntington Prep. Though Dieng is still raw, he's one of the most talented players on Louisville's roster and could blossom into a key contributor for the Cardinals this season.
Frontcourt DepthWith an injury to forward Jared Swopshire that is expected to keep the 6'8 forward out for the start of the season, Dieng provides much needed depth for Louisville's frontcourt behind starters Terrence Jennings and Rakeem Buckles. Dieng, an athletic 6-foot-9 talent, could see minutes at both positions this season, providing needed relief for Jennings and Buckles.
Defensive MeasuresIt was clear during Sunday's Red-White scrimmage that Louisville needs help defensively. In a game that featured 163 shots, Louisville only recorded five blocked shots. Dieng's biggest impact on the court this season should come on defense. Blessed with a 7'4 wing span and good defensive instincts, Dieng excels as a shot blocker around the basket. As a senior at Huntington prep, Dieng averaged 7.3 blocks and swatted eight shots while earning the MVP award in the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic.
"With our style of play, when you're running and pressing, having his length back there to alter and block shots is important," Pitino said. "He's a shot blocker, but is also is very skilled offensively. He's got to work himself into our system because he's missed a lot of practice. We're super excited and so are our players."
Freshman ClassWithout Dieng, Louisville's freshman class might have been the least impressive in the 16-team Big East. With Dieng, Louisville's 2010 class isn't nearly as devoid of big-time talent. Dieng's addition helps balance the Cardinals roster this season, and beyond.