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August 8, 2011 at 12:06 PM

Aziz N’Diaye: “I’ve been working on my offense”

Sat down with Aziz N’Diaye last week and we talked about a range of topics including his offseason toe surgery, his role on the team next season and Washington’s freshmen.
N’Diaye, a native of Dakar, Senegal, appears to be in terrific shape largely because he’s been working out constantly since the season ended. When I’ve watched him at UW’s open-runs and playing in the Seattle Summer Basketball League (SSBL) at North Seattle Community College, he’s one of the best conditioned athletes on the court.
[Reminder: The SSBL games are Mondays. Today’s action starts at 6 p.m. and features three teams with Huskies.)
When we spoke, N’Diaye had a relatively easy time against freshmen Shawn Kemp Jr. and Jernard Jarreau while helping his team that included former UW star Isaiah Thomas to an easy win over a squad that included Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten Jr. and Hikeem Stewart.
N’Diaye said he hopes to help the team with defense and rebounding next season, but admitted he needs to improve offensively. His 39 blocks and 5.7 rebounding average was second among Huskies last season, but he averaged just 4.6 points despite shooting a team-high 57.9 percent from the field. He played in all 35 games and started 25.
Here’s the interview.
(How is your summer going?) “It’s going pretty good. I’m around. I’ve been here taking classes and working out and trying to get better.”
(Did you go home at all?) “Nah. I couldn’t make it. I talked to coach about it. I had to take both terms. I already finished A-term classes and now I’m taking B term. By the time I’ll be done, I’d only have 2-3 weeks and home is too far. So I’m just going to make the sacrifice and stay here.”
(When was the last time you went home?) “It was last year.”
(You miss it?) “Yeah, I miss it a lot.”
(What happened to your toe? Was it bothering you during the season and why was surgery necessary?)

“At the end of the season it was bothering me because of the shoe that I was wearing was rubbing my toe. It was kind of hurting and I had a blister, but I was practicing and playing with it and it was kind of getting worse and worse. So after the season I was in a boot for a couple of weeks and then the team doctor decided to have the surgery. So I was out four weeks. I recovered pretty fast.”
(Where you nervous at all when they said surgery?) “Yeah because I had surgery on my knee and I didn’t want to have another surgery. So I was nervous, but everything went well. I was rehabbing and just trying to get back and it ended up doing well.”
(How is your knee?) “It’s cool. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff in the weight room to make it stronger and stronger. So it’s better.”
(You’re not wearing the big brace around your knee anymore.) “Yeah. I wore it last year the whole season. I’m working my way back to not wearing it next season. We’ll see how it’s going to go.”
(So you’re not going to wear the brace next season?) “I don’t want to wear it. I don’t think I will.”
(If you’re not wearing it in summer league games, maybe you don’t need it.) “I know. I think I’ll be OK. I’ll just talk to the trainer and tell him what I’m feeling. Then they’ll check the knee out and see that my hamstring is strong. After that I think I’ll be fine.”
(That’s the right knee right?) “Yeah.”
(What happened to your left knee?) “I dislocated the other one. It’s cool now. Like I said, I’ve been working on strengthening my legs because that’s what’s going to carry me through the season. So we’ll see how it’s going to go. I think I’m fine. I’m feeling more comfortable playing these guys.”
(You looked fantastic out there, but you were playing against the freshmen. What’s it like going against those guys?) “We have a good group of freshmen coming in we just have to help them out. This is nothing. I’m just trying to get better and keep in shape and work on my game. The freshmen, they listen and they try to follow and I think they’ll be OK.”
(It shows how far they need to progress when they play against you.) “I’ve been working on my game and not really worrying about that. Going against Kemp, he has a big body. He’s going to help us through the season. So far I’m just working on my game. I’ve been here one year so I know already what I need to do and where I need to be at this time of the year.”
(What specifically are you trying to improve this summer?) “I’ve been working a lot on my offense, my hook shot and post moves. We’ve been working on getting stronger and working hard in the weight room. Hopefully it’s going to carry me through the season.”
(What type of season would you like to have?) “I just want to have a successful season because we have a bunch of freshmen coming in. So we need to have a successful season. We have good wings and it doesn’t really matter what I do because the only thing that matters at the end of the day is it’s about winning and losing. I’m just going to help out the best I can can playing defense and rebounding and working on my offensive game.”
(When people talk about the MVP going into the season, they mention Terrence Ross, Abdul Gaddy and maybe Tony Wroten, but I say it’s Aziz N’Diaye. You’re going to be one of the biggest guys in the conference and UW’s lack of experienced post players puts a lot on your shoulders.) “I know that they’re going to need my help inside and I’m going to focus on doing what I need to do like helping out my teammates. If that’s scoring or getting rebounds, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do and at the end of the day, we just got to get wins. And help the freshmen out so that they understand how to play the game at this level.”
(How good do you think Washington can be?) “We haven’t started practice yet so it’s difficult to say whether we’re going to be as good as we were last season. The freshmen they just got in and they got some work to do to catch up. It’s going to take time and dedication. When we start practice, we’ll see how well we’re going to do.”
(Among the new guys, who has impressed you the most?) “Tony is a great passer. I love playing with him. It’s helped him a lot taking classes in the summer and playing with us because we’re learning how he plays the game. I think he’s a pretty good player. Everybody else, they’re good. They can help us.”
(Speaking of Tony, you didn’t take it easy on him. I saw one time you set a hard screen on the young fella.) “That’s what it’s going to be like. If you expect it’s going to be easy, then when the season starts you’re cheating yourself. It’s not going to be easy. They know that. When I’m out there, I’m just playing the game. Trying to win and get better.”
(When he went up for the dunk over you and landed hard, did you hold your breath?) “I was scared. I know what it feels like to get injured falling down like that. And he’s my teammate too. When he threw it up, I knew he was going to do that and I just wanted to get out of the way and he ended up jumping over me. Hopefully he’s fine and I think he’ll be OK.”

Comments | Topics: Abdul Gaddy, top 25


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