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DeSagana Diop, Senegal
Africansport.co.uk: Desagana Diop first picked up a basketball when he was 15 years old, when his schoolmates encouraged him to give it a try considering he was so tall.
At first he hated the game and had all the smaller/faster players running rings round him...(Sagana) was spotted by a scout for the Dallas Mavericks, Amodou Fall who also happened to be Senegalese.
Fall was impressed with Sagana's work ethic and already imposing frame and encouraged him to continue working hard as the NBA was not just a dream but a reality that was within his grasp.
Shortly after, Sagana moved to the United States to further his education (and off course his Basketball skills). He enrolled in Oak Hill Academy High School, which boasts one of the most revered Basketball programmes in the High School ranks.
The adjustment to life in the US was difficult as Sagana spoke very little English. Luckily, one of his team-mates during his first year at Oak Hill was also form Senegal and during practice he helped interpret the coaches instructions. Sagana's on court performance did not require any such adjustment as he put up huge numbers for Oak Hill across the board leading them to an unbeaten season which culminated in the individual honour of being named a McDonald's High School All-American.
The initial plan was for Sagana to play two years of High School Basketball and then move on to college, but his sheer dominance at this level and the dearth of quality big men in the NBA led to an early declaration for the NBA draft.
A fracture to one of the bones in his foot mid-way through his last season at Oak Hill has slowed his development at the NBA level, but he is now fully healthy and starting to show glimpses of the promise that prompted him to begin the long journey to the NBA...
Name: DeSagana N'gagne Diop (sa-GAH-na JOP)
Nickname: Gana, Flyswatter, Big Sag (Shaquille O'Neal)
Origin: Dakar, Senegal
Schools: Oak Hill Academy (VA)
Drafted: 2001, First Round, 8th Overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers
Languages: Arabic, English, French, Wolof, and some Spanish
Teams (jersey): Cleveland Cavs (52), Dallas Mavericks (7)
IBN Notes: Diop averaged 14.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 8.0 blocks during his senior year ar Oak Hill Academy, earning him the USA Today Virginia Player of the Year title and leading Oak Hill to a #1 nation ranking with an undefeated season (33 wins, 0 losses). From Wikipedia.com: Diop is primarily a defensive specialist. He's an excellent shotblocker (is among the top 3 in blocks per-48 minutes) because of his large wingspan, and is athletic and mobile enough to cover quicker big men. While he has little offensive game, he has a good 15-foot jumpshot which he rarely uses and is known to throw a dunk or two. In addition, he tries hard and is rarely seen tired while on the floor, even if his foul-proneness still limits his playing time.
His work ethic and improved rebounding and shot-blocking ability have inspired Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson to start him over the more experienced Erick Dampier. The Mavs went on to win 13-straight games since the change. Prior to this, Diop had a reputation of being overweight and lazy during his four unsuccessful years in Cleveland. Since he joined the Mavericks, he has lost a significant amount of weight and has made the jump from being a scrub player on a mediocre team to a starter on a championship-caliber one.
In Game 7 of the 2006 playoff matchup between San Antonio and Dallas, Diop was called the "unsung hero" of the game after playing solid defense on Tim Duncan in the 4th quarter and overtime and grabbing two significant offensive rebounds.
|DeSagana Diop Links From our forum: DeSagana Diop, Unheralded Maverick Basketball Without Borders with DeSagana Diop Senegal Basketball Forum Articles and Other Resources: Basketball Without Borders with DeSagana Diop (Nba.com 2005) Late starter Sagana grasps his chance (Africansport.co.uk) DeSagana Diop Photo Gallery (Yahoo!) Mavs' center now a Big Sag in the middle (Dallas Star-Telegram), Diop Profile (Wikipedia.com), Diop til you drop (Dallas Star-Telegram)|