It's not quite fair to say that high school junior Mamadou Ndiaye stands out. It's more like he stands above.
At 7-foot-5, Ndiaye is easily the tallest high school basketball player in California, and we can pretty much safely say, the rest of the country as well. In fact, Ndiaye is so tall that the Guinness World Records recently tried to track down an official measurement to determine if he is the tallest high school basketball player in the world.
None of those strict delineations are particularly important, of course, because one thing is certain: Ndiaye is so tall that he's pretty much impossible to defend … or get around when he's playing defense. As artfully chronicled by The Daily, Ndiaye stars for the Huntington Beach (Calif.) Brethren Christian School basketball team and is taller than any player on a current NBA roster, a place where he could find himself in a short three years if he continues developing.
"Right now his game is basically catch, turn, drop-step, dunk," Brethren Christian basketball coach Jon Bahnsen told The Daily. "But this kid's going to play professionally someday. The minute Mamadou enrolled I became a much better basketball coach."
Make no mistake: Ndiaye is not a Thon Maker, a teen who seemingly slipped right into everyday American life and life on the basketball court as if he'd been playing for a decade. Yet while his skill set may be much more raw, Ndiaye is even more of an enigma.
Ndiaye's trek to the U.S. is a strange and secretive one, complete with two different schools of enrollments of 250 students or fewer. The first of those, Simi Valley (Calif.) Stoneridge Prep, helped Ndiaye get a student visa … and a physical examination, where they discovered he had a large tumor on his pituitary gland which was likely contributing to his rampant growth and also impinging on his sense of sight. Doctors estimated he had two years to remove the tumor, at most, or risk losing all sight.
While Stoneridge Prep couldn't afford to fund his surgery, charitable donations did, and a married couple who lives near Brethren Christian became the enormous Senegalese teen's official legal guardians.
What did the couple want in return for their guardianship? Only for Ndiaye to get to be a normal American teenager, according to Bahnsen, who noted that the African native rides an oversized bike everywhere he goes and has fallen in love with Chinese food.
For now, those who have met Ndiaye insist he's achieving just that, all while throwing down spades of dunks on unwitting Brethren Christian opponents.
"I met him in Dakkar," former UC Irvine assistant coach Amadou Koundoul told The Daily. "There's only one indoor gym in Senegal. It wasn't hard to find Mamadou.
"He's the best person I've ever been around in my life. It's hard for him to do anything without people gawking at him, but he handles it well."
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