At the annual St. John’s men’s and women’s basketball media day event on Thursday, October 10, junior forward Khadim Ndiaye sat peacefully, watching.
He observed his teammates as they were being interviewed one on one or sometimes by a horde of reporters. Then he swiftly pulled out a glasses case and put on a pair of glossy plastic spectacles, similar to what basketball superstars Kevin Durant and LeBron James have worn during media interviews.
“I just wanted to look professional,” Ndiaye said.
Eventually a reporter from a local weekly came over to talk to Ndiaye. That was it. No ESPN, no New York Daily News, not even the student newspaper, the Torch, or student TV station, WRED, which was busy drooling over a limited chat with head coach Steve Lavin or sensational junior guard D’Angelo Harrison.
It’s expected for a walk-on player, such as Ndiaye. But on this global team, congested with mega recruits and future NBA players that hail from as far as Texas (Harrison), France (Marc-Antoine Bourgault), Nigeria (Chris Obekpa) and the Dominican Republic (Orlando Sanchez), that walk-on is the only player capable of calling Queens, New York City or even the tri-state area, home.
The days of local products such as Metta World Peace, the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest, Erick Barkley and most recently Maurice Harkless, are gone for a break. It’s not like Lavin isn’t trying to draw local players. The fourth-year head coach made a push to acquire the services of Brooklyn’s Isaiah Whitehead, who was ranked 20th in the country by ESPNU. But the Lincoln High School star instead chose to play for conference rival Seton Hall University.
So now there’s just Ndiaye, a Queens native from Far Rockaway, who played on Christ the King High School, which is just a few miles to the west of St. John’s. He is following in the steps of past Johnnies, Barkley, Omar Cook and Malik Boothe, all of which played for the Royals.
After high school Ndiaye played Division II basketball at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, where he scored 8.5 points per game and grabbed 4.9 boards in 27 games, but he became homesick and transferred to St. John’s.
“I didn’t like the feel over there, in terms of being away from home,” Ndiaye said.
Nydia is soft spoken, but assertive. He won’t tell you that he’s beaten 2012-2013 Big East Rookie of the Year sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson in one-on-one games — although Sampson has the upper hand in total matches—but he’ll acknowledge they’ve played.
“Khadim is one of the best one-on-one players I’ve ever faced to be honest with you,” Sampson said. “The way he dribble the ball is awkward so it kind of throws you off.”
This season, like any other, Ndiaye’s goal is to help his team win. This ranges from cheerleading on the sidelines to practicing hard to increase his minutes on the floor, a daunting task that seems near impossible with the influx of top level recruits Lavin has made in the past few seasons.
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