Cardinal Sports Zone would like to thank Kenny Klein, Coach Pitino, and the rest of the staff for allowing us to get an exclusive interview with Gorgui Dieng during the season, especially in a tough portion of the schedule. We greatly appreciate it!
CSZ: There seems to be some Cardinal “Magic” in the paint when you’re on the floor. On defense, if you’re not blocking shots, you’re changing them. On offense, you and Chane have been finding each other and stuffing the ball in strong! In your opinion, what has been the biggest key to our team’s success as of late?
Gorgui: The biggest keys to our team’s success is that we all play together. We dominate the glass, we pass the ball well, and we run the floor which gives us more fast break opportunities.
CSZ: How’s the chemistry of the team right now?
Gorgui: Chemistry is good. We are all on the same page now. We are working just as hard as before but now we’re having more fun with it.
CSZ: Seems like injuries are still following the Cards around but can’t defeat us. You played through an ankle injury against Rutgers which enabled us maintain our lead and we pulled the win out. You were a game time decision for UConn and you played very well despite the sprain. These are the types of selfless acts that your coaches, teammates and the fans will forever love you for. How’s your ankle now?
Gorgui: It’s kinda sore a little still but I think if I played through an ankle injury against Rutgers, UConn, and West Virginia, then I will be able to play against Syracuse.
CSZ: In Big East play, entering Saturday’s game, you were 3rd in fg. %(.583), 3rd in rebs. per game (9.3), and 1st in blocks (3.4). Please explain your mentality as our primary “shot blocker” when you’re on the court.
Gorgui: Just thinking about the coach a lot because Coach Pitino makes me believe I can block everything. I can remember in high school I was much taller than a lot of “kids” so I averaged 7-8 blocks a game. College is different, you need to have good timing when going for blocks. Also Ray Ganong, our strength coach has really helped me a lot too. If you don’t have good timing and strength you can’t block shots.
CSZ: What’s going through Gorgui’s head as he’s anchoring the defense?
Gorgui: We play a lot more zone now and when we are in that zone my job is just to protect the basket and I’m not going to let anyone have an easy basket in there. I mean I treat it like my lunch, I’m not going to let anyone come and take it!
CSZ: I remember last year and at the beginning of this season you would get called for goaltending and Coach”P” would get on you about it but now you have much better footwork and timing.
Gorgui: Yes if you look at me last year, I have at least 10 or 11 goaltending calls against me and this year I haven’t had 1 yet. I would say I just accept what coach is telling me and try to be a good listener. Not exactly where I want to be but I am happy with the way I’ve been playing lately.
CSZ: Is it more fun to block a shot on a half court set 1 against 1, block a shot as the weak side help or to hustle on back on “D” and swat someone who thinks they have a wide open fast break?
Gorgui: I think it’s more fun to block a shot from the weak-side help because anytime you do that you need to use your length and you need to time the shot block very well. I know I’m taking a gamble because I have to leave my man to get the block but I also have to trust in our defensive rotation and the guy who is dropping to take my man. If you get the block it’s going to be very fun but if not you could possibly be giving up two points. I like my chances.
CSZ: Do you consider yourself a finesse or a power player?
Gorgui: I think I’m more finesse, but that has nothing to do with my toughness. On defense I can fight with a player on the block and show my toughness and power. On the offensive end I like to use my head to score because most of the “bigs” I play against are going to be stronger than me. I’m going to be quicker than them. When I have the ball it’s like having a weapon that the other 9 players on the court want and the 5 defenders have to be careful not to foul me. So when I have it I’m going to take my time and use my head to think about how to score or get my teammate an open shot.
CSZ: What have you been doing different to stay out of foul trouble as of late?
Gorgui: In the morning workouts Coach “P” has really been teaching me how to “wall up”. I am 6’11” have a 7″6′ wingspan so just by me getting my hands up without jumping will make it tough for anyone to shoot over. Coach Pitino tells me that if they make tough shots over me then it’s not my fault. The main thing he tells me is not to jump with my guy because he and the team needs me in the game.
CSZ: Which team(s) in the Big East do you hate facing and why?
Gorgui: Providence because I have only beat them once since I’ve been at the university (in 3 tries). Almost everytime I have faced them, we’ve been the favorite but some how we end up losing the game. The games that seem to be the easy ones are the ones that give us the most trouble everytime.
CSZ: Which team in the Big East do you love playing against and why?
Gorgui: UConn and Syracuse because they are big. When I play against guys that are bigger than me then I feel that I have nothing to lose or that I’m going to be quicker and have the advantage.
CSZ: Who would you say is the toughest player on our team pound for pound?
Gorgui: Every player on our team is tough. I think that the toughness is mental first. We won the first 12 in a row then we lost 3 in a row and now we have won 6 in a row. That’s toughness! If we weren’t tough then we would have quit so my answer is the whole team because of our ability to bounce back after losing.
CSZ: How’s life around campus now with basketball and class both in full effect?
Gorgui: It’s pretty fun but I mean we live in the gym and school is our only other responsibility. Once I’ve finished practice and my homework I have nothing else to do. That was the sole purpose of me coming to Louisville (go to school and play ball) so if I can accomplish this everyday then I’m having a great life.
CSZ: What’s your routine in the evening once class is finished and practice is over?
Gorgui: I just want to go to my room and let my body rest because I know that rest is very important to my brain and my body.
CSZ: Senegal is a long way from Louisville, KY. What do you do to keep in touch with family and friends that you haven’t been able to see for a while?
Gorgui: I Skype with my family whenever I’m free. My true friends know what I’m going through here and they know that I don’t have a lot of free time or money right now to contact them like I would like to. I talk to them and they know the reason why I’m here and they understand. My family and true friends will be there with me when the time is right.
CSZ: We have a very crucial game ahead against Syracuse. Which player(s) on our team is most likely to keep everyone together and on the same page this weekend when we face them on Monday night? Please explain.
Gorgui: Like I said before, we don’t have any quitters on this team so if you pick any of the guys and say that they will lead then you can’t have a wrong answer. If you say Chris, if you say Kyle, if you say Peyton or if you say me, it’s going to be right because we’ve all been there for each other and we’re a family so I think that we all help pick each other up when the times are tough.
CSZ: If you were drafted to the NBA tomorrow to the team of your choice, which team would you choose and in your opinion, what would you need to do most to help that team immediately?
Gorgui: I’m not the guy who likes to talk about the NBA. I just want to focus on what’s happening right now and how I can help my team win. If I play good here and handle my business then everything else will take care of itself.
CSZ: Cardinal fans say NO Looking back #10!!
Gorgui: I get it! I’m going to do everything and pay attention to detail so that I can continue to get better. I put the team and my teammates before me. I will continue to put myself last because I can handle it when things go bad and I can help carry the guys who are having a harder time adjusting or dealing with the situation.
We would like to thank Gorgui for taking the time to give us this exclusive interview for CSZ. We look forward to seeing the big man grow and improve on the court and help this team make a big run!