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Kentucky Game Doubly Special For Gorgui Dieng

Andy Lyons

Gorgui Dieng will undoubtedly have an extra bounce in his step when he hears his name called for the first time on Saturday.

Part of that will be because it will mark his first on-court action since fracturing his left wrist on Nov. 23, and another part will be because it will come during Louisville's annual rivalry game with Kentucky. Mostly, though, Dieng's bolstered excitement will stem from the fact that his parents will be watching him play basketball in the United States for the first time.

The logistics and the legwork for getting Momar Dieng and Seynabou Diagne to Louisville for the first time were performed by Dieng's host parents from his time at Huntington Prep, David and Lesley Thomas.

"We're elated to be able to do something like this for Gorgui," Lesley Thomas told Yahoo! Sports. "I think it's a thrill just to see my kids play in youth leagues, and Gorgui's playing for a Division I school and his parents have never gotten to watch him. It has made our Christmas to see Gorgui so happy because our kids have gotten to experience something you can't wrap up in paper."

Dieng first left Senegal for the United States back in 2009, a transition that was understandably difficult for an 18-year-old who was very close to his parents and who did not speak any English. Within an hour of arriving at Huntington Prep, he was conveying his homesickness to coach Rob Fulford through a steady stream of tears.

It didn't take long for Dieng to adapt, and then ultimately flourish in his new environment. He returned home for the first time last summer as a college basketball star and one of the most popular people in the city of Louisville. It's a status he's earned with hard work and an affable personality, but one his parents won't truly be able to understand until they see it with their own eyes.

Dieng summed up his giddiness for this weekend's events with a text message to Lesley Thomas earlier this week:

"I can never repay you or thank you enough for making this happen."