CHICAGO -- Gorgui Dieng punctuated his final season at Louisville with a national championship.
But when asked what is more important to him, getting that ring or being drafted into the NBA he didn't hesitate.
“Being called on draft night,” says the 6-10 center who belted a hearty laugh. “It’s going to be very big. My career is just going to start. A lot of people win a national championship and didn't make it to the NBA. I don’t want to be part of that history.”
Despite his improvement and success before leaving as a junior, Dieng didn't enter last week’s NBA combine as a lottery prospect with all the talk is surrounding centers Nerlens Noel (Kentucky), Alex Len (Maryland), Cody Zeller (Indiana) and Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga).
The Wizards, who are in dire need of help in the interior on the offensive end, met with all except Noel. They didn't request an interview at the combine with Dieng, either, but he warrants inspection.
Dieng averaged only 9.8 points last season, but he contributed 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.0 assists and 53.4% shooting.
He showed the ability to face the basket and make the mid-range jump shot and play away from the rim. Dieng is a good athlete, an underrated passer and has an almost most 7-4 wingspan. He wasn't able to work out at the combine because of an ankle sprain which might have damaged his draft stock.
“I spent time in the gym trying to turn my weakness into a strength,” Dieng said of his jump shot. “I’m willing to work. I want to be the best I can be.
“It’s not a big deal to me being early first round or late first round. I just want to go to a team where I could fit. I can help the team. Whenever I go, I play defensively right away and can be a great passer. I can help a team in many ways. A lot of teams need a rebounder and a shot blocker.”
Ryan Blake, senior director of NBA scouting, is more partial to Dieng than a project such as center Steven Adams of Pittsburgh. The Wizards interviewed Adams who is incredibly raw but has more question marks than Dieng, who needs to add bulk to his 230-pound fame to play consistently in the low post.
Of course, the Wizards have a pair of second-round picks but they don't expect a player of Dieng's quality to be available. Adams, however, might be there.
"You've got to put Gorgui Dieng in there," Blake said when addressing the top centers in the draft. "I just love what he does. He's not your first, second or third option but you go down and you see the stats and it's all covered. He blocks, he passes, he defends, he blocks out, he's an effort guy, he's a worker and he's smart. He's still developing. You don't have to be a dominant offensive player.
"Washington is one of the best defensive teams. If you get some bigs that can play in the league for 10 years, you get a great prize in Dieng. He hasn't been talked about as much. ... I like the person that he is. He came from a family where his dad didn't give him anything. He was taught, 'If you want something, you're going to have to work for it yourself.' He loves his dad. He's going to make himself better. That's not to say the others won't. He may not be as skilled offensively as the other guys. But he can be just as effective or more at the next level."