Former Louisville big man and current Timberwolves center, Gorgui Dieng has been named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month in the NBA.
Louisville fans may remember Dieng as a player who seemed to barely understand the rules of college basketball as an incoming freshman, who quickly blossomed into one of the best big men in the game 2 years later, taking the cards all the way to the championship.
Dieng had seen limited minutes until the month of March and despite his great college career, seemed he would be nothing more than a 3rd string center in the NBA.
Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic had struggled with injuries through January and February and when coach Rick Adelman got word that Pekovic would be sidelined for most it not all of March, he decided to insert Dieng into the starting 5.
Dieng managed to pick up 5 double-doubles in 6 games, including a game where he pulled down 21 boards while scoring 22 points. Dieng is the only rookie in franchise history to record a 20-20 game. In his 14 games during the month of March, Dieng averaged 8.6 points and 8.3 boards.
Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin said about Dieng,
It’s been a great sighting. He got his opportunity, but what he’s doing with his opportunity is something special. Two or three years from now, he’s going to be a really special center in this league. But he’s been poised throughout the year.”
Dieng was drafted 21st by the Utah Jazz and the decision by Minnesota to trade for him has obviously paid off. The question now becomes, with just a handful of games left, do the Timberwolves stick with their breakout rookie at center, or do they try to work Pekovic back in who had admitted that although cleared to play, he’s struggling with the pain.
I love basketball, you know? Whether it’s on the street, outside, whatever. I just love playing basketball, and I choose to be a basketball player. So I need to make it fun. -Gorgui Dieng