HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Mr. Gorgui Dieng, who entered the NBA as the 21st pick in the 2013 draft last night.
Our Nordstrom Men’s Shop team was there with him the whole way—from early-morning fitting sessions at Joseph Abboud HQ in NYC, to styling out Gorgui’s perfect Draft-night look inside his hotel room mere hours before the event, to cheering him on from the stands at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last night.
Things we saw: Diehard NY Knicks fan Spike Lee repping orange and blue in the front row, rowdy fans booing NBA commissioner David Stern every time he stepped on-stage to announce the next team’s pick (and Stern egging them on to boo louder), and scores of dapperly dressed draftees—of whom we are hands-down confident Gorgui was the most well-appointed.
Admittedly, we might be biased—but just look at that subtle windowpane-plaid suit, crisp white shirt, smart mix of patterns between his tie and pocket square, perfect pant break…we could go on, but just see for yourself.
Perhaps most impressive is the fact that our friends at Joseph Abboud turned Gorgui’s two suits (one for draft night, one for the next-day media frenzy) around in just two days—an impressive feat, especially considering the star center’s 6-foot-11 frame. Better still, the suits were crafted right here in the USA, in Abboud’s factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Score a made-to-measure suit of your own at any Nordstrom store.
Amidst all the excitement, we also had the great opportunity to sit down with Gorgui to discuss his humble beginnings in Senegal, his admirable work ethic, and his experiences as a Louisville Cardinal—which of course led to an NCAA National Championship last season. Watch our exclusive video up top, and read on for the full Q&A.
MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Where did you grow up?
GORGUI DIENG: “I’m from Kébémer, Senegal. It’s in West Africa. A little town, about 22,000 people.”
MSD: What kinds of values did your parents instill in you?
GORGUI: “Oh, I think I’m very blessed to have the family that I have. They are great and they support me in whatever, and I think my dad and my mom spent a lot of time to raise me and make me the person I am today. I am very happy that they did that for me, because I left them six years ago, fairly young, and in this big country—if I wasn’t educated to have morals, if they didn’t instill cultural things in me, I probably would be lost. I probably would be today on the street, or in jail, or doing some crazy stuff. So I feel very lucky to have the parents I have.”
MSD: What were some challenges you faced in Senegal?
GORGUI: “It was fun growing up there, but when it comes to economy and school and stuff, it’s tough. Things that I wanted to do, I could not do back home because there was no stuff to go to school and play basketball or go to school and play a different sport, so I was home, but I didn’t have much help. We didn’t have a lot of infrastructure up there and it was just very tough. School is nothing compared to here. When I came to this country, I had everything I needed. People take care of me, I have tutors and studied on computers, and everything is completely different.”
MSD: How did you first start playing basketball?
GORGUI: “Honestly, when I first saw people playing basketball I thought it was just a good sport. I thought, ‘It’s not hard, you just catch the ball and put it in the basket.’ You know? [Laughs]. And then a lot of my friends that I used to play soccer with—the soccer field and the basketball court were close, so my friends, they started quitting playing soccer, and playing basketball instead until there were just a few guys left. So I just joined all my friends and started playing basketball.”
MSD: How did you continue from there with your basketball playing?
GORGUI: “I just got taller, and someone saw me and said, ‘Do you want to go to school and play basketball for free?’ I said ‘Yeah.’ They said, ‘I will take you to the United States.’ And I said ‘I would love to do that.’ And I went to SEEDS [Sports for Education and Economic Development in Senegal] Academy for one year, and I went to Basketball Without Borders in South Africa, that’s an NBA camp, and after that, they brought me here. I went to one year of prep school at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, then I went to Louisville for three years. So I’ve played like six years overall, of organized basketball.”
MSD: What do you love about playing basketball?
GORGUI: “It’s very fun and I always enjoy it. I love playing basketball more than anything. I like just playing basketball and making friends.”
MSD: What was it like when you first moved to the US?
GORGUI: “When I first got here, it was very tough. I could not speak English. Like, when you say ‘Hello’ to me, I just stare at you, you know? [Laughs]. I wouldn’t know what you were saying. It was very hard, and I knew I had to go to prep school and make a great score for my SAT to go to college—and I wanted to go to a big school. So I just would spend all of my time studying. And sometimes, I would just stay in my room and get very frustrated and start crying. I was just young, and I couldn’t see my family, and I couldn’t talk to anybody. I wasn’t scared, but I was just frustrated. And I fought through all of that, and I went to college, and today I’m talking about getting my degree—and I think that’s pretty exciting.”
MSD: What was it like the first time you met Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino?
GORGUI: “The first time I met him, we could not talk, because I could not speak English. [Laughs]. I just shook his hand, and he was talking to my coach and stuff, I didn’t get it. Everybody was laughing. Two months later, he came to see me, after I started to speak English a little bit, and that’s when he started recruiting me.”
MSD: What lessons have you learned from Coach Pitino over the years?
GORGUI: “Coach always said, ‘There’s a lot of people that go in the gym and work, but there are few people that go in the gym and work hard.’ He said, ‘I just want you to be one of those.’ And since then, I get it—and he pushed me hard, and kept pushing me, and always asked the best from me. And that’s what I’ve been doing. On the court, when I’m the one that just got yelled at and pushed hard, or something happened on the team and I’m the one to blame—he just wanted to prepare me, you know. And I can’t thank him enough for that.”
MSD: There’s a famous video clip where you’re on the bench, it looks like Coach Pitino shouts in your face, and after he walks away you kind of laugh—do you remember what he said to you?
GORGUI: “Yeah I remember that. But I don’t think I can repeat it! [Laughs]. You know, I don’t take Coach too serious because I know how he is. When he’s on the court he just wants to go all out—he doesn’t care what he does to win the game, he will do it. He has so much passion for the game. But, the player needs to understand that, too. So, even when he says some stuff, you know, I just laugh, because I think that’s the best way I can handle it.”
MSD: Who was your roommate on the road with Louisville, what’s his nickname…and did he have any strange habits?
GORGUI: “When we’re on the road I room with Russ Smith. You know him—he’s crazy. ‘Russdiculous.’ He’s my guy. He’s like someone I will really miss in college, and I miss him already. He is always fun to be around. Like when you’re on the road, he doesn’t sleep. He would take my iPad and my laptop, and his phone in his hand, and would have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram sitting on the desk until 4:00 in the morning. I would go to sleep and wake up and be like, ‘Russ, what are you doing? We have a game tomorrow!’ He’d say, ‘No, I’m good.’ He just doesn’t sleep. He has a lot of energy—especially in the way he plays.”
MSD: What are some lessons you learned from Louisville’s championship season last year, that you think might help prepare you for the NBA?
GORGUI: “Just to never quit, no matter what happens. We won like 14 games in the beginning of the season, then lost three in a row, and we never hung our heads. We played a game that started at 9pm and went until 1am—five overtimes—never quit. It’s just mental toughness. I think guys need that in the NBA—if you’re not tough in the NBA, you won’t survive. And I think I will be ready for that.”
MSD: How important is it to look good and feel confident on a night as important as the NBA Draft?
GORGUI: “It’s very important. It’s all about showing people who you are. If I just go there with shorts and a T-shirt, people will never forget that. If I go there and look very nice, people won’t forget that either. It’s all about your legacy. That’s how I take everything I do—whether it’s playing basketball or not, I want to carry myself as a professional and do everything in the right way.”