As Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College coach Barret Peery said earlier this week, “It’s hard to find an available big body this time of year.”
When the Tennessee men’s basketball team decided it needed one of those big bodies two months ago, it turned its attention to Indian Hills.
UT assistant Tracy Webster identified Rawane “Pops” Ndiaye (pronounced Rah-wan-e N-jie), a 6-foot-10, 270-pound center, as a possible fit. A scholarship offer was made. An official visit was had.
Late Thursday afternoon, Ndiaye made it official. He filed his National Letter of Intent with the Vols to become the fifth man in coach Cuonzo Martin crowded five-man 2013 recruiting class.
“What I like is he’s a big body with a good feel for the game and he knows who he is,” Martin told the News Sentinel. “He can score around the rim, but only when the opportunity presents itself.”
Missing three months of the past season at Indian Hills with a foot injury, Ndiaye averaged 2.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 13 games. According to Peery, Ndiaye selected the Vols over interest from LSU, Auburn and Texas Christian.
Ndiaye’s Letter of Intent, coupled with that of Blackman High School point guard Darius Thompson on Wednesday, pushes the 2013-14 UT roster to 15 scholarship players. The NCAA allows only 13.
“It’s obvious the fact that there has to be some transition,” Martin said.
One scholarship could be freed up by rising junior Jarnell Stokes, who is considering entering the NBA draft. The 6-foot-8, 270-pound forward has until April 28, the NBA’s entry deadline, to decide.
“It (the wait for Stokes’ decision) could possible go to April 28th,” Martin said. “He could go. He could not. It’s hard to say right now.”
The coach added that UT’s scholarship number will “figure itself out,” adding that the addition of Ndiaye was necessary to address potential frontcourt depth issues.
“Whether you have guys going to the draft or guys possibly going in a different direction, you have to be ready at all times,” Martin said.
Asked about Ndiaye’s statistical output at Indian Hills, Martin said, “We don’t need Pops to come in and give us 15, 20 points a game. We need him to come in here, make those layups around the rim, defend, and do the things necessary for the team to be successful.”
In his final season as Missouri State coach more than two years ago, Martin first saw Ndiaye as a high school player at Body of Christ Academy. He was not recruiting the prospect, but recognized the name when it came back across his desk years later.
Ndiaye originally committed to Western Carolina out of high school, but never enrolled, instead landing at Indian Hills. Prior to his time at Body of Christ Academy, he lived in Dallas after spending years in the Republic of Senegal in West Africa, his parents’ native country.
Ndiaye was born in New York City and grew up in The Bronx.
“This is a guy who can help us,” Martin said.
In addition to Ndiaye and Thompson, UT’s 2013 recruiting class includes Dyer County guard Robert Hubbs III, Buford (Ga.) High combo forward A.J. Davis, and Huntington (W.Va.) Prep point guard Travon Landry in the early signing period.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn