I said it last night when the story was first posted, but if you could only read one Louisville-related piece leading up to the game this week, it should be Eric Crawford's profile of Gorgui Dieng that ran in the C-J this morning.
I wasn't sure it was possible to love or respect Gorgui anymore than I already did, but the profile achieved the feat.
Gorgui on his definition of success:
"My dad always told me, I made this money. I'm not going to save it for you, I'm going to give it to people that need it. If you want to make your own money, just go work for it. He always told me. I'm going to give you food, I'm going to feed you well, I'm going to get you clothes, I'm going to take you to school. But don't ever think that you're going to get my money one day.
"... Then he took that money and gave it to the poor. Bought them food, clothes, took their kids and got them school stuff. And I learned from that. Why could I not be like him one day? Make my own money, helping poor people and people that need it. I think he's a role model and he taught me how important school is. ... You need to be smart to be successful in this life."
On the culture shock when he first transitioned to America:
"I started trying to have a conversation with him, and he just broke down in tears," Fulford said. "It was culture shock. He was away from home and it just hit him that his parents weren't going to be around. He didn't speak any of the language. He was obviously uncomfortable and probably scared."
That was four years ago. But those who know him now can't be surprised at the progress he's made. He learned English quickly.
"It was very hard for me," Dieng said of his arrival. "The first week I stayed in my room. I couldn't speak to anybody. I couldn't do anything. I couldn't speak English. If you said hi to me I wouldn't say anything, because I didn't know. My dad told me, ‘You need to communicate with people so you can pick up the language pretty quick. You can't just stay in your corner. You need to socialize more with people.' "
Gorgui on sportsmanship:
For example, Dieng throws out statements like, "I don't play this game to make enemies, only friends," and refuses to talk trash to opponents because "why would I want to make another player feel bad? It could be me."
And, after saying that making the NBA was 70% of his life goal, talking about what the other 30% of his life goal is:
"To be a role model," he said. " I want to go back home and give back to people who helped me. I want to go back one day and do the same thing for the kids. I don't want to be selfish. People who helped me to get where I am, I want to go back and do the same thing for them."
I implore you to read the whole thing. It's really, really worth it.
When Rick Pitino signed Gorgui Dieng, he signed one of the most special Louisville basketball players any of us have had the privilege of following.