'Bows tap into new power source
|||University of Hawai'i Men's Basketball 2005-06 schedule|
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Bodyboarders at Sandy Beach have already learned about Ahmet Gueye the hard way.
Now, the University of Hawai'i basketball team is hoping to unleash Gueye on its opponents.
Gueye is in his first season with the Rainbow Warriors, and he is looking to bring much-needed power to the power forward position.
Gueye is 6 feet 7 and a muscular 225 pounds. Whether he starts, he is expected to literally play a big role for the 'Bows this season. Gueye and "Big Matt" Gipson are battling for the starting role at power forward.
"I think the thing I can bring most to this team is defense, rebounding and blocked shots," Gueye said. "I don't care if I score just one point, I just want to help the team win."
Gueye is considered a defensive specialist because of his strength and quickness, but he has also been agile enough to keep up with the smaller guards during fastbreak drills.
"We're changing some things in our offense because of guys like Ahmet," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said.
In particular, Wallace said he would like Gueye, Gipson and center Chris Botez to wear out opposing big men by running up and down the court.
"We have guys who can run the floor well for big men, so we have to take advantage of it," Wallace said. "I don't know if we're in shape to keep it up for a whole game, but if we can use it here and there, it'll be effective."
In practices, Gueye has already shown highlight-reel potential with his powerful dunks and blocked shots.
"He's long, he's athletic and he can jump out of the gym," co-captain Julian Sensley said.
Sensley, a 6-9 senior forward, often matches up with Gueye during practice drills.
"You think you're by him, but he comes out of nowhere to block your shot," Sensley said. "He has real good timing, and he plays real smart."
That Gueye is playing NCAA Division I basketball in Hawai'i is an accomplishment already.
He grew up in Dakar, Senegal, which is a country in west Africa. Soccer is the country's No. 1 sport, so he did not try basketball until he was 13.
"Some of my friends wanted me to play with them because I was tall," Gueye said. "But I was more into soccer when I was young. Once I started basketball, I fell in love with it."
Unlike some other parts of Africa, Dakar is civilized. Gueye said he received a formal education and was raised in an urban home with his two brothers and a sister.
"We had a humble life, but my parents gave me what I needed," he said. "It's not a poor country, it's developed."
Still, Gueye knew he had to leave the country to develop his basketball skills. An uncle who lives in Texas helped Gueye enroll at Salt Lake Community College (Utah) in 2003. Hawai'i associate coach Jackson Wheeler recruited Gueye out of Salt Lake.
"Because of his background, he's still learning the game," Wallace said. "But he's something we didn't have a year ago. He's a post-up guy who gives us a defensive presence."
Health has been an issue with Gueye recently. He has been slowed in practices this week because of an injury to the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his right knee.
The extent of the injury has yet to be determined, but Gueye is determined not to let it keep him off the court.
"It hurts, but I have to deal with it," he said. "The season is about to start, and I can't let it stop me."
Gueye played most of last season with a broken left toe as a sophomore at Salt Lake. He still finished with averages of 10.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and led the team with 33 blocked shots.
"I didn't want to sit out," he said. "I wanted to help the team."
Gueye has also become a team player off the court here, even in the unlikeliest of places.
He said Dakar is surrounded by beach breaks, so he grew up in the surf. A few months ago, he took a few of his teammates for some bodyboarding sessions at Sandy Beach.
"He was like a big kid out there on the waves," said junior point guard John Wilder, who is Gueye's roommate. "We didn't know what we were doing, but he was trying to teach us. He was catching all the waves and all the other people were getting out of his way. That's a big man coming at you. It was fun just to watch."
Wilder said Gueye has a dual personality.
"Off the court, he's mellow ó really polite," Wilder said. "But once he's on the court, he's a beast. It's exactly what you want as a teammate and roommate."
Senior reserve center Milos Zivanovic could miss the first two months of this season because of a broken left thumb. He sustained the injury during practice last Saturday. "It hurts our depth at the big spot," Wallace said. "But we have other guys who can fill in and hopefully he can come back and help us down the stretch."
Senior starting center Chris Botez has missed the last two practices with flu-like symptoms, but he is expected to be ready for Friday's exhibition game against Hawai'i-Hilo. The game is not part of the season-ticket package.
Individual game tickets and Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic ticket packages will be available Monday. For more information, call 944-2697 or visit hawaiiathletics.com.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.