If Issa Thiam's debut in front of the Rutgers basketball fan base was any indication, an exciting career awaits the freshman from Dakar, Senegal. Thiam twice shot the lights out as the winner of a three-point contest at last week's Midknight Madness.
The lone commitment to Eddie Jordan that stuck with the Scarlet Knights, Thiam's ceiling is high in the eyes of head coach Steve Pikiell. The 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward's first focus in development.
“I'm working very hard,” Thiam said. “I come [to the gym] at 5 a.m., working on my shot. It's just like that.”
Thiam enjoyed his debut in front of the fans, he said.
“[The reaction] was nice,” he said. “We're working hard every day down here. I do my best.”
His sharpshooting ability and basketball skillset quickly impressed older teammates.
“Issa is very talented,” said freshman Corey Sanders, who also spent time at Arlington Country Day School. “He's only a freshman. He's getting better every day. He's out in the gym. His shot, it's water. It hits the bottom of the net mostly every time in practice. He's going to be a good asset to our time.”
Thiam initially picked Rutgers based on a relationship with then-assistant Greg Vetrone. Vetrone stayed on the staff in a different role after Pikiell replaced Jordan.
“This coaching staff is a great coaching staff,” Thiam said. “They coach us tough but everything you need, they'll do it. In practices, they're working us hard to get better.”
Former Roselle (N.J.) Catholic forward Matt Bullock, another freshman, finished second among the men shooting Friday night at the RAC.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” Bullock said. “I appreciated everybody coming out and getting ready for the season. We're going to have a good season.”