By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
- He’s been rocking this fantasy basketball thing so well for a while now that Abdoulaye Gueye has cooked up this idea: A.D. might like to be a GM.
Georgia Tech’s fourth-year junior forward/center deploys squads in a pair of fantasy leagues, one competing against all of his teammates and another “veteran” group that includes teammates Josh Okogie and Sylvester Ogbonda and former teammates Josh Heath and Rand Rowland.
He’s in first place in that one, and A.D. – as his teammates typically refer to him – feels mighty good about that.
“I’m No. 1 in my bracket ... getting the right players. If they’re not doing good, I drop them and pick up another one,” Gueye explained. “After I graduate, I want to maybe go play overseas, or see how I can help my community through the business side. I want to be a business man or be a general manager.”
That’s quite a range of possibilities, right?
Figures. Gueye’s a rangy man, and his improvement on the court is no fantasy.
The 6-foot-9, 214-pound business administration major from Dakar, Senegal, has already covered considerable ground in 23-plus years, and he’s doing it this season for the Yellow Jackets.
Gueye started in Tech’s first eight games, then moved to a backup position for three and missed a fourth with an ankle injury before moving back into the starting lineup when the Jackets opened ACC play Dec. 30 at Notre Dame.
With an arm span that stretches 7-feet-3 inches, he’s counted upon by head coach Josh Pastner to serve as something of a utility man for the Jackets.
Coming off his best game, when he scored a career-high 14 points and tied a career high with nine rebounds in Saturday night’s 74-60 win over Yale, A.D. is trending upward.
“He gets credit for just continuing to get better,” said head coach Josh Pastner. “Our assistant coaches have done a great job in individual skill development; Eric Reveno works with the bigs, and A.D. obviously with the effort he puts in.
“He’s become an ACC-level player. I promise you, he was not an ACC-level player last year. He has become an ACC player through hard work and development.
Gueye popped a couple 3-point shots in a 78-68 win over Texas-Rio Grande Valley on Nov. 22, when he scored a then career-high 13 points, yet scoring is something of a third nature for him.
“All you got to do is defend, rebound, he’s got to run the floor, don’t turn it over, and he’s got to make layups around the hoop. You got to score around the hoop, big fella, and I’ve told him that,” Pastner said. “He’s been really good for us defensively. That’s what makes him so good for us is the defensive end.”
Gueye is fifth in rebounding for the Jackets, at 4.0 per game despite ranking seventh in minutes played (20.7). He’s also second in blocked shots (13) and fourth in steals (10).
That’s not bad for a guy who didn’t begin playing basketball when he was 14, at the urging of his parents and an aunt with a background in the sport.
For years, A.D. was more into kicking balls than blocking shots.
Then, his uncle gave him some basketball shoes.
“I always enjoyed soccer; it’s the main sport over there, so I was playing soccer. I didn’t really like basketball,” Gueye recalled. “My mom and my aunt and my dad were pushing me. They told me I got height, ‘Soccer is not going to work; it’s not you.’ I finally started getting into it, and after that I fell in love with it.”
Gueye first journeyed to the United States in 2012 through an exchange program, landing at the Central Park Christian School in Birmingham, Ala.
Between two seasons playing for the Eagles, and a turn in summer AAU ball as well, the springy, wiry young man landed on recruiting radars and the honor student narrowed his college choices chiefly to Texas Tech, Minnesota and Georgia Tech.
After averaging 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots as a senior, Gueye committed to the Jackets, former head coach Brian Gregory and chief recruiter and former assistant Chad Dollar, “Because it was so close to home, a two-hour drive to Birmingham, and I liked the school and the program.”
Gueye still considers Birmingham a home. He hasn’t been back to Senegal, where his mother, Ndeye, and three older sisters and an older brother still live, since 2014. His father, Osumane, passed away about a year before A.D. came to the United States.
“My host family, I consider them – Nick and Catherine Crawford – like family,” he said. “We talk a lot and I went over there to see them in December. They come sometimes to watch games.”
Pastner and the Tech staff are working with Gueye to grow his game, particularly on the offensive end of the court. He’s averaging a modest 3.8 points on 33.3 percent shooting.
After Wright’s substandard effort against Coppin State on Dec. 27 and underwhelming practices, Gueye went back into the starting lineup at Notre Dame. Gueye has a little hook shot with each hand, and he’s improving as a passer with 18 assists, double the nine he had last season in 20 games before he suffered a season-ending injury to his left wrist.
“What they need me to do I just get in and do,” he said. “My job is get in, bring energy, defend so I’ve got to stick with it. It doesn’t matter to me what position.”
Pastner recently began asking Lammers to play more away from the basket on the offensive end, and in those games the Jackets have beaten No. 15 Miami and Yale.
“We’ve tried to make some adjustments to help both Ben and A.D., and so far it’s worked, but also A.D. is working at it,” Pastner said. “He’s spent a lot of time. he’s one of the first ones in the gym, and the last ones to leave.
“He’s wanting to get better. He’s just improving because he’s spending the time in the gym. It’s very hard to take him out of the game because of his defense.”
With an inventory of spin moves around the basket, Gueye has become more assertive at the offensive end now that he has more room to operate.
“I guess trusting the work I’m putting in during the season and the summer,” he said after making 6-of-12 shots against Yale and adding three steals and two blocks. “I’m comfortable any place. It was just my day. My confidence ... I just trust the work I’m put in, get better every day.”