Wolves center Gorgui Dieng is the only player on Senegal’s roster that is also currently on an NBA roster.
But the Senegalese have started the 2014 FIBA World Cup with two upset victories, first over Puerto Rico and most recently against a very good Croatian squad.
Dieng tallied 18 points and 13 rebounds against the J.J. Barea-led Puerto Ricans on Sunday, and posted a crazy line of 27 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and one steal against Croatia. He shot 8 of 14 from the field and 11 of 12 from the free throw line in the 77-75 victory.
Croatia has a good team, led by this summer’s first-round draft pick Dario Saric, as well as current NBA players Bojan Bogdanovic from the Nets and new Pacers’ addition Damjan Rudez. Former second-round draft pick Ante Tomic also starts for the Croatians.
Dieng has been very aggressive on a Senegal team with Hamady Ndiaye as the only other player with limited NBA experience. The Wolves’ center’s jump shot has looked smoother and less-robotic early in the tournament, and his defensive presence in the paint has been extremely effective as well.
Senegal has Tuesday off before a very difficult contest against Argentina on Wednesday. The Argentinians are currently locked in a tougher-than-expected battle with the Philippines, but are one of the top-five or six teams in the entire tournament.
Dieng’s squad looks to be headed into the single-elimination portion of the tournament, but quite frankly, the two games that they’ve already won is a massive surprise and anything else would be gravy.
If nothing else, it’s great to see Dieng asserting himself and playing as well as he has been on an international stage. The Wolves have to be very encouraged with his growth and overall aggressiveness through the early stages of the first round.
Ricky Rubio and Spain will take on Brazil at 3:00 p.m. Central Time today. The game can be seen live on ESPN3, or on delay this evening on NBATV at 6:00 p.m. CT.