PULLMAN — Mouhamed Gueye needed to “see all of my choices on the desk,” so he declared for the NBA draft and entered his identify into the NCAA’s switch portal.
Ultimately, not one of the options was extra interesting than a return to the Washington State males’s basketball crew.
“It’s all the time been WSU, to be trustworthy,” Gueye mentioned by telephone Wednesday from Napa, California. “It’s identical to a household. I’ve been there for a 12 months, I understand how the persons are and what the crew is about. The individuals there present love on a regular basis and I’ve obtained my buddies for all times. The entire crew and the employees, we’re all shut.
“It’s a robust connection.”
Gueye, a standout within the Cougars’ frontcourt as a real freshman final season, determined earlier this month to withdraw from the draft pool and the switch portal. He left Pullman in late April and spent the subsequent 5 weeks touring the nation.
The 6-foot-11 Senegal native labored out for seven NBA groups, participated within the G League Elite Camp in Chicago Might 15-17 and garnered recruiting curiosity from a mass of high-major suitors. All through the method, Gueye stayed in contact with the Cougars and by no means significantly thought of some other faculty.
“We’d been involved the entire time,” he mentioned. “We’ve simply been speaking about how we’re going to enhance the crew. They had been actually excited (when Gueye introduced his return).”
He solely scratched the floor of his potential throughout his rookie 12 months, averaging 7.4 factors and 5.2 rebounds per sport, and nonetheless solidified himself as an expert prospect. In fact, the expectations shall be larger now.
An imposing publish defender with mobility and a growing capturing contact, Gueye is ready to shoulder extra duties this season after a debut season that noticed him begin 33 video games and emerge as one of many Pac-12’s elite children.
“I’ll be doing the identical stuff as final season, however simply greater,” he mentioned.
Gueye expects to spice up his manufacturing partially as a result of Efe Abogidi, a two-year starter within the Cougars’ frontcourt, is reportedly heading to G League Ignite to kick off his professional profession.
“Dropping Efe was an enormous piece of that,” he mentioned. “He’s clearly a shot blocker and all that. I’ll be blocking extra pictures and being extra dominant on the defensive facet. I’ll simply be higher within the sport general. I’ll be a greater chief, every little thing.”
Desirous to fine-tune his sport, Gueye soaked in suggestions from NBA coaches and gamers over the previous month whereas competing towards aspiring professionals in crew exercises and on the G League mix.
Scouts and different members of professional franchises had been impressed together with his coordination and versatile talent set however informed Gueye that he must pack some muscle onto his wiry, 210-pound body.
“That can come. I’m nonetheless younger,” he mentioned. “My foremost takeaway was enjoying towards (different NBA hopefuls) and seeing how they’re. That reinforces your confidence when you understand they’re positively not higher than you. It’s been enjoyable enjoying towards these guys and displaying people who I is likely to be nearly as good as him or higher.”
Maybe equally vital was the chance to take psychological notes whereas watching coaching classes that includes established professionals equivalent to Portland’s Damian Lillard and New York’s Derrick Rose.
“It simply exhibits what it takes day in and day trip,” mentioned Gueye, who additionally caught up with former Cougars ahead CJ Elleby throughout a exercise with the Path Blazers on June 9.
Studying and adapting have been frequent themes over the three years of Gueye’s time within the U.S., a interval of development he described as hectic and fast-moving.
“It’s been nice, however it’s been loopy,” he mentioned.
Gueye’s journey to Pullman
Raised in Dakar — the coastal capital metropolis of Senegal — Gueye was extra keen on soccer than basketball in his youth, however a number of of his members of the family are completed basketball gamers and he was ultimately satisfied to strive it out.
“I used to be enjoying soccer till I used to be 14, then my oldest brother (Abasse) mentioned, ‘Bro, you gotta decide one,’ ” Gueye informed The Spokesman-Overview earlier this spring. “I used to be taller than all of my buddies.”
He by no means performed organized basketball in his dwelling nation, however obtained the hold of the game by means of one-on-one workouts together with his brother and pickup video games on the Worldwide Faculty of Dakar.
“They’d guys from Europe, any person who was enjoying within the G League,” Gueye mentioned. “One other man performed at Clemson. They had been telling me, ‘You’re good. You can also make it.’ ”
At age 16, Gueye met Mamadou Cisse, a coach based mostly in France who’s well-connected within the basketball world. Cisse observed Gueye throughout a scouting journey to Senegal and took him underneath his wing.
“He’d take movies and ship them out, and that’s how Prolific Prep contacted me,” Gueye mentioned. “Coach Mamadou knew the Prolific (coaches) properly and was like, ‘That’s the most effective match for you.’ ”
Gueye jumped on the provide from the hoops manufacturing unit in Northern California and set off for America in late 2019.
“My brother informed me I’ve the chance to do one thing particular and maintain the household,” he mentioned. “It wasn’t a very long time fascinated about it.”
Gueye moved in with a bunch household — he’s staying with them in Napa — and began to regulate to the change of surroundings, a “tradition shock,” he mentioned.
He enrolled at Prolific as a sophomore and was restricted in his first prep season due to nagging ankle accidents. His new crew included a lot of future Division I signees, most notably Jalen Inexperienced, the No. 2 general decide within the 2021 NBA draft.
The Cougars have ties to Prolific Prep, stemming from WSU coach Kyle Smith’s previous teaching cease at San Francisco. WSU started recruiting Gueye in early 2020 and was the primary program to make a proposal.
“Backside line, we had been out entrance and nobody else knew the race was occurring,” Smith mentioned after this season.
“You might see what he’d be sooner or later, and that was fairly tantalizing,” assistant John Andrzejek added. “It was an ideal scenario the place he was in a spot, coated up by gamers who had been actually good. … We handled him just like the man we had been after.”
“Everybody else thought the end line was 12 months later, and we weren’t sharing. I feel he felt indebted to us as a result of we gave him a path.”
In WSU, Gueye noticed a possibility to play instantly, and that helped the Cougars’ trigger, as properly.
“I believed he was positively an NBA expertise. We informed him, ‘Right here you’ll most likely have a a lot better likelihood at getting on the ground early in your profession, and that’s the way you get good,’ ” Smith mentioned. “We didn’t even assure beginning minutes.”
Gueye signed with WSU in Might 2021, turning into a top-three Cougars recruit since 2000, and captured beginning duties within the preseason. He put collectively one of many extra spectacular rookie years in program historical past, incomes an all-freshman crew nod from the Pac-12 after serving to WSU to its greatest season in a decade.
“I simply tailored,” he mentioned.
Gueye will return to Pullman subsequent week and start preparations for a sophomore season stuffed with promise.
Requested about his targets this 12 months, Gueye mentioned: “To be the most effective model of myself. And as a crew, to jell and make the (NCAA) Match.
“I’m excited. We’ve obtained a very good crew. We’ll construct chemistry and the sky’s the restrict.”