Nearly three years ago to the date, all Huskies fans were wondering the same thing: How do you pronounce “N’Diaye”? Throughout my travels (aka, going to ASU), I’ve run into a lot of people with the same question. My response rarely differs; “You don’t know how to pronounce the name of the best center in the Pac-12?” Of course, I later correct them to “EN-jai” but my point still gets across. In my mind, Aziz N’Diaye developed more in his three years on campus than most players do in four or five.
He was a relatively unknown commodity when he first arrived from the College of Southern Idaho. All we knew was that he was a physical seven-footer that didn’t seem to fit into Lorenzo Romar’s system.
The first news on N’Diaye that we heard was that he ran the mile with the team in a mere five minutes 21 seconds, erasing all doubt that he couldn’t keep up with the frenzied pace the Huskies like to play at.
He entered as a sophomore after averaging 8.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks as a freshman at CSI. He became just the second scholarship player standing 6’9” or taller at the time, yet three Huskies will meet that height next season.
He has brought change to a program that some might say didn’t need it, but it is hard to argue with his numbers. He nearly averaged a double-double last season, with 8.9 points and 9.1 rebounds after improving in each category every season he has been at Washington.
He transformed from a tree down low that no one knew if they could count on to a rock in the middle of the lineup. During his first two seasons, it seemed as though there was little confidence in his ability to catch passes, but after a summer of hard work, he became reliable in that area among many others.
He improved so much so that I wrote an article not long ago proclaiming him as the best center in the Pac-12. Despite a less than desirable finish to his career at Washington, I stick with my words. In every game he played, he was a formidable opponent in the paint and almost always outrebounded his counterpart.
For much of the year, he led the league in double-doubles, until Carrick Felix took the title at the end of the season. He finished his senior season with 11. That comes after amassing six in his previous two seasons.
He came to Washington in the Class of 2010, alongside Terrence Ross and Desmond Simmons. It is hard to evaluate a class that isn’t necessarily finished, but in my mind, each individual player was a success. Ross came in as an undervalued star in the making while Simmons was and still is a hard-nosed, all-out basketball player. Ross is now in the NBA and Simmons will look to lead this team to an NCAA Tournament berth next season.
N’Diaye leaves after dancing just once, but it wasn’t by fault of his own. He provided the big man down low that coaches only dream of having. Romar got him for three years and wasn’t able to put his best seasons to use.
With N’Diaye either headed to the NBA or Europe, expect Romar to go back to more traditional, run-and-gun Husky basketball; however, don’t let N’Diaye’s career fool you, if he ever gets the chance to have another center like N’Diaye, Romar will put him to use.
For now, he is left scrambling to find out who will be his reliable post presence, whether it is Shawn Kemp Jr., Gilles Dierickx or Perris Blackwell, he won’t be the same as Aziz N’Diaye.