Head coach Fred Hill readily acknowledges that the process of developing Rutgers into a program that competes competitively for Big East championships is going to take time, and that RU right now, in his second year, is more than likely not there yet. However, as RU fans watch and wait, one facet of the program that appears capable of making that wait far more pleasant and hopeful is watching the development of sophomore center Hamady Ndiaye.
The sophomore from Darkar, Senegal is playing just his fourth year of organized basketball. His first year at RU was nothing to get particularly excited about; he certainly saw playing time, but he more than lived up to his advance billing as an athletic, potentially quite promising, but still very raw talent. Now in his second season on the banks, he is beginning to show that he can indeed narrow the gap between his raw talent and his potential.
"I'm getting better every game', he said to me after the Princeton win. "It (his game) is coming along". Now that he appears firmly entrenched as a starter, he spoke about the boost that has given him. "It's a nice boost for my confidence", he said. "I've gotten into the starter's mentality. I thought 'I've got to pick it up now'". And as for approaching the Princeton game knowing that Byron was injured: "I said to myself 'I have to get this'. I have to do what I have to do. I knew just needed to stop anybody I could out there".
Although Hamady is still fairly new to the world of college basketball in America, he's already become aware of the significance of a Rutgers-Princeton game: "A lot of people were coming up to me before this game", he said. "I heard the talk around school". He then said with a slight laugh: "I had to give them what they wanted". Another added motivation was the matchup against Tigers center Zach Finley.
"All I was hearing was that Finley was their best scorer. Knowing that a big man was their best scorer, I was studying tape. I knew I had to be ready. I did what I had to do. The hard work is paying off", he said. It is indeed a sign of just how it is paying off that many RU fans can lament his leg cramps against St Peter's, which limited him to just 14 minutes, and feel that if were healthy, they'd have won that game. That sentiment in a similar situation last year would have been unthinkable.
Said Hill "Hamdy brings great enthusiasm, great energy, and he's a great defensive presence", he said. He went on: "He did a great job, he played great tonight for us, and he's been doing a good job. He keeps getting better everyday". Hamady concurred with his head coach's sentiments, adding that "the energy I bring to the team, I feel I have to get the team going". He also added that he is beginning to feel more comfortable with being more vocal.
Since he's no longer the new kid on the block, how about with the freshman then? He said: "With our freshman, you don't have to say much. A look is enough. You don't have to follow. You still have to teach, but they know what to do". How about the atmosphere on the team leading up to this game? He said that, "I felt the atmosphere was real good, I felt that we were focused and ready to go. Coach didn't have to say much".
Logging a career high in minutes in this game then, how did he feel? Was he tired at the end? "I didn't think about being tired", he said. "I knew Byron was injured but I felt really good. There were no fouls I had to worry about. I just needed to stay disciplined and listen to the coaches". If Hamady Ndiaye continues to stay disciplined, work hard, and listen to the coaches, it may be a cliché, but only the sky seems the limit. With him just a sophomore, it's hard to believe RU's future can be anything but bright