Exit Interview: Abdoulaye N'diaye

In this latest installment of our Exit Interview series, WeAreSC sits down with basketball center Abdoulaye N'diaye to get his thoughts on USC and his Trojan career.

We're here with former Trojan center Abdoulaye N'diaye. Congratulations on making it to the Sweet Sixteen.

Thank you very much, thank you.

First off, does your name, "Abdoulaye," mean anything?

It doesn't mean anything, but it is the most popular name in Senegal, where I'm from. Senegal is a mostly Muslim country, and Abdoulaye was the first son of the prophet Muhammad.

You transferred from the College of Southern Idaho. What factored into your decision to come to USC?

To tell you the truth, I was a little bit tired of the cold weather up there. Another reason was that I like Tim Floyd a lot. He came and visited me a lot of times, including the junior college national championship. Also, USC has a great reputation. You hear them talk about USC all over the country. Not only for the sports programs, but it's a great place to get a degree from. Education is very important to me, so I chose USC to get a degree from a really good school. Georgetown and Florida also wanted me. I really liked Georgetown but USC was my first choice.

What kind of recruiter is Coach Floyd?

He's a pretty good recruiter. I remember seeing him in the stands at my games like four or five times. That helped me with my decision a lot, because the other coaches I talked to only came to visit me once or they sent their assistant coaches. Coach Floyd showed me that he really wanted me to play for him, so that made my decision real easy.

How has your life changed moving from Senegal to the United States?

California is kind of similar to Senegal. The weather is similar, it doesn't rain much, and it's not that humid. I lived two miles from the beach. Even if it is a poor country, it is nice. People there really appreciate what they have there. The education part was a little tough when I got here, because of the English. I played for Gib Arnold for two years. He helped me a lot with my basketball game. My cousin also helped me with a lot of my decisions. In Senegal, it's very hard to do both sports and education. I had the opportunity to stay home and play professional or go to Europe or Asia to play professionally, but I chose to finish school first. I always told myself that the money will come later, but I need to get an education first. And also, there is no bigger place for sports than the United States.

What was it like playing with the likes of Gabe Pruitt, Nick Young, Lodrick Stewart and Ryan Francis?

I played with many good players. Playing with Nick, who is a good friend of mine, he's an amazing player. Gabe, the same thing. Lodrick, also. All three are amazing players. But one thing about Ryan Francis, I've never seen anybody play harder than him. Rest in peace for him. He was such an amazing kid, he was always positive, on and off the court, always smiling. When I found out he got shot last year, that really hurt me a lot. You don't see a kid like that every day. My experience playing with all these guys is something that I'll never forget.

The strong bond between the members of the team is frequently mentioned in the media.

It's unbelievable how we got along with each other. I've never been with such a group. There are no behind-the-scenes problems. If you go to our dorm right now, everybody's doors are open. You can walk in, mess with them, and go back to your dorm. All the players, we love each other so much. I'm leaving, but it will be sad for me to leave such a group. The coaches, they chose the perfect players to fit in with the group.

How was it to play for Coach Floyd?

People call him a coach, but I think of him as a teacher. He's somebody who is going to teach you the real fundamentals of the game. Technique and everything. He's unbelievable as a coach. You don't just have a new team that never played together before as a group and you go beat North Carolina and UCLA in your first year. You have to be a really good coach and really good teacher to be able to do something like that. He's amazing as a coach and that's why a lot of kids want to play for him. O.J. Mayo, he realizes if he plays for him, he'll get better every day and he'll learn a lot from him. I really appreciate playing for him and his group. We have excellent coaches.

Talk about the assistant coaches.

Assistant coaches don't get a lot of credit. But behind every great person, there are other great people. All of the assistant coaches know how to prepare each player in each position. They also help on the recruiting. Coach Arnold is good with the big guy. He knows how to teach the big guy to post up. He's all over the court. He's good at recruiting. Coach Johnson is always studying tapes and seeing what the other team is doing, to help us prepare for them. Coach Cantu is the one that keeps the group together and keeps us on track, also with school. Coach Hackett is good with personal training. If you want to lift by yourself, he's always ready to go lift. Our managers are great too. Rob Brooks is someone you can go to. He'll be a great coach because he's learning from the coaching staff.

You got to see student attendance at the games do a turnaround during your two years at USC.

The Galen Center has really helped the basketball program. Because now we see all the students going to our games. The student section was unbelievable. It means so much. As a player, it helps so much. People don't think that the public affects the game. But they really do help us a lot during the game. When you know that you have people behind you, you just don't want to fail. My first year here we played so many games where the other team had more fans than we did. Now, you go to the Galen Center, especially like on Senior Night. When I went to the gym two hours before and I saw students sitting outside waiting for security to open the doors so they could get in and get the best seats, it was unbelievable. It made me feel so proud to be part of this program.

You guys beat Texas this year. Do people come up to you to thank you for beating them, given their football team's defeat of ours a year ago?

I have many friends on the football team. We hang out a lot together. When they found out we were going to play Texas, I got text messages from different football players telling me that we better beat Texas. They were really happy for us after we won. I hope the football team gets Texas again at the National Championship and gets its own revenge in the next few years.

What are some of your favorite memories playing for the Trojans? Perhaps your first double-double versus Oregon State last year?

I've had so many good memories. My first year, beating North Carolina and UCLA, was so big for us and so big for me because I played so well in those two games. I will never forget them. I still have those DVDs and I'll watch them once in a while. Also there was that shot that [Chris] Penrose made on Senior Night. I don't know to describe it. I was really happy for him, I had to run onto the court and carry him on my shoulder. Penny is somebody who had done so much for the basketball program for the last three years. He gave his heart and soul to all of his teammates, always brought the right attitude to practice. My coach used to say that Penrose was also a good recruiter. He was the one who took care of all of the recruits when they were visiting. That shot he made meant a lot to him, but also, he meant a lot to us as his teammates. He worked so hard for this program. I wish him good luck.

What memories do you have of Ryan Francis?

Ryan Francis is somebody who everybody would be proud to be parents of. I'm sure his mom is so proud of all the things he accomplished. One thing I do remember about him was that he was always smiling. The only time you didn't see him smile was after a loss. He hated to lose. He was 33-0 in high school. No matter how good he played, he just hated when we lost. When the Galen Center opened, they honored him and his mom was there. We were all crying in the locker room. We really missed him. We were playing, but it felt like something was missing. Last year he helped us so much. He was a freshman but was leading the team like a senior.

Is there a favorite play that you're really proud of being involved in?

One thing I can say is that I've been to the NCAA Tournament. I didn't win the Pac-10 title, or the chance to win the NCAA Championship, but I can say that I've been to the Sweet 16. That is something we accomplished. This year was amazing because in 25 or 30 years I can say we beat the record of the most wins in a season for the USC Men's Basketball team in 2007. I've done many things in junior college, won a national championship and I have that ring at home. What we accomplished this year was really big for me. And I'm really proud to be part of this group.

What are you doing right now to prepare for the next level?

Right now I'm trying to heal from some bruises and injuries. It was a tough and long season. My knee is getting better. I'm lifting with my personal lifting coach, trying to get better every day. I started playing basketball not too long ago and I know I am still young and can get better. So I will just keep working. It doesn't matter where I end up after this summer. I'm still going to do my best to get better and improve in this game. Basketball is a big part of my life and hopefully I will do well before I stop playing.

Are you graduating?

Yes, I'll be graduating this summer with a degree in social history. I may come back to school to get a business degree, and be in business, like my dad, who is a businessman in the import and export industry in Senegal.

What are your career plans after basketball?

One of my goals is to go back home and help the people back in Senegal. Senegal is poor country. I think people like me, if one day they make it, they should go back home and invest in their country and help their people to get up, to stand up. One of my biggest plans is to open an enterprise over there to create jobs for people who could use a helping hand. I would also like to possibly come back as a coach. I love basketball so much.

The future of the USC Basketball Program. How do you see it?

I wish I had two or three more years of eligibility. I wish I was a freshman right now. Because I know, this program right here is going to be big time, soon. Big, big time. Because with the new gym, with excellent coaches like Coach Floyd and his crew, man, only God knows who will stop them in the future. They're going to be good. Real good.

Anything else you want to say to the Trojan fans as you move on?

I have no regrets in choosing this school. I have no regrets for being a Trojan. I always will stay a Trojan. I will come back. I love being a part of this family. I think anybody would want to be part of this family. I'm sad that I'm leaving, but I'll never forget everything that the school and the fans have done for me. I'll be a Trojan forever. For life. Thank you.

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