Dieng set for debut against NKU

Louisville will play its first game at the KFC Yum! Center against outside competition Sunday when they host Northern Kentucky at 2 p.m., and Cardinal fans will get their first look at freshman center Gorgui Dieng.

Louisville will play its first game at the KFC Yum! Center against outside competition Sunday when they host Northern Kentucky at 2 p.m., and Cardinal fans will get their first look at freshman center Gorgui Dieng.

Dieng, who was declared academically ineligible to play this season, but won an appeal this week granting him eligibility, didn't play in Louisville's public scrimmage last Sunday and only started practicing with the team Tuesday.

"He's got a lot of ground to make up," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "The good thing about Gorgui is he's probably the second smartest basketball player that we have in terms of picking up things. Already in two days he's picked up all the offenses and the terminology. He runs the offense better than the rest of the big guys already."

Despite not being able to practice with the team, the 6-foot-10, 215-pound Dieng stayed in shape on his own. Pitino said he expects Dieng to play 15-18 minutes behind starting center Terrence Jennings in the exhibition vs. Northern Kentucky.

"He's in okay shape," Pitino said. "He's very disciplined and understands what it is to be in shape. He's not out of shape."


Gorgui Dieng will make his debut for Louisville against NKU.
Though Dieng still needs time to adjust to the college game, the former Top-50 high school prospect should be able to help Louisville right away on the defensive end. Dieng excels as a shot blocker with his 7-4 wingspan.

"He's very long," said Pitino. "His wingspan is incredible. He doesn't have to jump real high to block a shot."

Unlike most African players who come to the states, Dieng isn't a rigid, straight-up player.

"Gorgui is nothing like that. Gorgui has a very good touch, he is a very good passer, he's different," Pitino said. "He's got gigantic hands and gigantic wingspan, but very good touch. All of a sudden he'll be making a move and his hand is above the rim."

As a senior at Huntington (WV) prep, Dieng averaged 15.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 7.2 blocks per game. The MVP of the Derby Festival Basketball Classic, Dieng totaled 15 points, 7 rebounds and 8 blocked shots.

"He's going to take off, but he's got to get used to the terminology. He's not used to it," Pitino said.

Dieng, who will play behind Jennings, should help make the 6-10 junior a better player.

"The good thing about T.J., now is Gorgui," Pitino said. "It's been easy [during practice] for him going over George Goode and Stephan Van Treese. It's no longer easy for him. He'll have a swatter behind looking to block his shot. He'll have to make good offensive moves to get his shot off."

While Dieng is expected to come off the bench Sunday, Pitino likely will start Rakeem Buckles and Kyle Kuric at forward, Terrence Jennings at center and Peyton Siva and Preston Knowles at guard. Pitino said Kuric, a 6-5 junior from Evansville, has made significant progress in his game during the summer.

"He's doing everything well offensively, defensively he has to improve," Pitino said. "Offensively, he's shooting the ball well. He's more aggressive and coming out of his shell, much like the improvement you saw years ago from Larry O'Bannon. He's almost like a carbon-copy of [him]. He's so similar it's almost scary."

Kuric made six three's in UofL's team scrimmage last week, teaming with Preston Knowles to push the Red team, which featured three starters, to the wire.

"I think Preston could have a special season and be one of the better guards in the Big East," Pitino said. "The great thing about Preston is he only cares about the final score. Louisville wins he's happy. Louisville loses he's upset. And every guy follows him."

Though Pitino doesn't know much heading into the game about Northern Kentucky, a Division 2 opponent, he expects his team will have to defend the three-point line.

"They shoot it well from the three point line and we'll have to defend that," Pitino said.


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