Back in 2007, when Dieng attended the 16-and-under tournament, he was spotted by the coach of Senegal’s national team. In 2009, after SEED, he was invited to attend national team tryouts in Italy. By far the youngest player there, he roomed a few doors down from someone with quite a bit more experience: Diop. When the national team wasn’t practicing, Dieng did his rookie duties — running errands for the older guys, especially Diop, who he peppered with questions about the league. “I was coming to his room 24/7,” Dieng remembered. “He wanted me to go get stuff for him. I’m going to go get it, but I’m going to keep asking him questions. “‘What’s the NBA like?’ “‘What do people do?’ “‘Is it true that this guy shoots like that?’ “I basically go in my room only to sleep … [When] everybody’s resting, I’d be in Sagana’s room talking to him. He’d be like, ‘Yo, kid, go to your room. I want to take a nap.’ I’d be like ‘Nah.’ I just kept asking questions.”
“I could just feel the hunger,” Diop said. “That’s the first kid I ever met from Senegal who was asking me those kinds of questions … You could see he wanted to make it.” Dieng learned all about U.S. basketball during those tryouts, then put it to use later that year. Coached by Engelbrecht, his SEED class traveled to the States to participate in a Nike Global Challenge tournament. They saw tough competition right away. Their first game was against Team USA Midwest, made up of elite high schoolers. Dieng won the game with a buzzer-beating turnaround 3.
Jon Krawczynski: Make no mistake, that $64M is life-changing money for anyone, but especially for Gorgui Dieng, who has had an unbelievable journey from Senegal. Dieng has been very active in getting aid to Senegal since he arrived in the NBA. This contract helps not only him, but so many back home.
FIBA: Gorgui Dieng: “I want to help bring Senegal back among the most competitive teams on the continent. My goal is to help the team win the next continental competition. We have a great group of players and we know that it won’t be easy, but the goal this summer is to win the #AfroBasket2015 and qualify for #Rio2016.”
In the weeks that followed, Hill said, Ferry met with faculty members at Spelman College and Morehouse College, two historically black universities in Atlanta. In December, Ferry and his oldest daughter, Hannah, traveled to Senegal, where they were accompanied by Amadou Gallo Fall, an executive with N.B.A. Africa, Hall said. Ferry was also a regular at high school and college basketball games over the winter. Last month, after watching one of his daughters swim at a meet in Orlando, Fla., he drove to Jacksonville to join Walton, the Harvard professor, for the Crimson’s first-round game in the N.C.A.A. tournament. “I’ve been trying to encourage him and tell him, ‘If you come back from this’ — and I definitely think he should — ‘you have the opportunity to be a leader, to both lead by example and to take this conversation where it needs to go,’ ” said Walton, who grew up in Atlanta and attended Morehouse.