Less than 24 hours after arguably his most agonizing loss at UC Irvine, Anteaters men's basketball coach Russell Turner was uplifted Wednesday when Mamadou Ndiaye, a 7-foot-5 senior center at Brethren Christian High in Huntington Beach, signed a national letter of intent to play at UCI.
Ndiaye, for whom some have projected an NBA future and has been mentioned as a potential lottery pick, averaged 24 points, 13.9 rebounds, five blocks and 3.8 turnovers as a junior, when he helped the Warriors finish 24-6 and reach the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section 5-AA Division playoffs.
Ndiaye, who was brought to America from Senegal in 2010, is believed to be the tallest high school player in the world.
Ndiaye signed in a ceremony at Brethren Christian Wednesday.
"I chose UC Irvine because I felt very comfortable at the university and with the coaching staff," Ndiaye said in a statement. "It is an excellent school that will help me develop as a student and basketball player."
Ndiaye does not speak to the media, nor do his guardians, a married couple that live near Brethren Christian, a school with 250 students that competes in the Academy League.
"We got a guy who is a really highly regarded recruit, which is a special thing for a program like ours to attract," Turner said. "I think he's a potential difference-maker right away, defensively and I'm really excited about that. He's a special, special kid with special qualities.
"I give my staff a lot of credit for the way we have recruited him over a long period of time and that has paid off.
"I told [Ndiaye] when I recruited him that I think he can be really good and I think our staff can really help him. We've helped some other big guys already to some significant improvements and I have a strong belief in my own ability to be a part of that, because I've been apart of that in a lot of different places."
Turner, while then an assistant coach at Wake Forest, helped in the development of Tim Duncan.
Ndiaye was discovered by Amadou "Pape" Koundoul, a native of Senegal who was hired as one of Turner's first assistant coaches prior to Turner's debut season in 2010-11. Koundoul resigned before that season began however and spent the 2011-12 season as an assistant coach at Duquesne, where he no longer works.
Ndiaye enrolled at Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley upon arriving, but was soon diagnosed with a pituitary tumor that, if not removed, threatened to damage his sight. Ndiaye had two surgeries at Hoag Hospital to remove the tumor and played 30 games at Brethren Christian last season.
Ndiaye, listed at 310 pounds, had 43 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots in Brethren Christian's 81-66 playoff loss to Village Christian last season. He made 20 of 25 field-goal attempts and shot 65% from the field for the season. He shot 49% from the free-throw line.
Ndiaye is joined in the UCI recruiting class by Luke Nelson, a 6-3 point guard from Great Britain who has verbally committed, but yet to file his letter of intent. Nelson averaged 16.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists for the English under-18 team last summer.