Interview conducted by Chris Monter
Abdoulaye Thiam, a 6-foot-3 guard from Indian Rivers (FL) State College, committed to Minnesota Friday. The junior college product was a full qualifier out of high school and will have four years of college eligibility for the Gophers.
Thiam averaged 15.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game this past season, scoring in double figures in 20 of 24 games, including a season-best 31 versus Palm Beach State College. He made seven three-pointers in that game and made three of more three-pointers in twelve of his 24 games.
Thiam shot 56.1% from the field, 48.5% from three-point range and 69.8% from the charity stripe.
Thiam played even better in conference games, averaging 15.7 points per game. He shot 59.8% from the field, 54.4% from three-point range and 81% from the free throw line in conference action.
Thiam helped lead Indian Rivers to a 20-4 mark and to the NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas. They defeated Dawson Community College 85-75, College of Southern Idaho 94-82 before losing to Chipola College 78-75 after leading at halftime.
GopherHole caught up with Thiam Friday night to learn more about his commitment and expectations for the upcoming season.
GopherHole: You committed to Minnesota today. What was the main reason that you decided the Minnesota is where you want to play college basketball?
Abdoulaye Thiam: I think family-wise, a great fit. Great history and great people around the system.
GopherHole: When did you first start hearing from Minnesota?
Abdoulaye Thiam: A couple of weeks ago.
GopherHole: What other schools were you hearing from besides Minnesota?
Abdoulaye Thiam: Wichita, Buffalo, Tennessee-Martin, Georgia, UCF and University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
GopherHole: How was your recruitment? You obviously had a great year at Indian Rivers and made it to Hutchinson for the NJCAA Tournament. To be honest, a lot of coaches would have normally been down there watching you play and making it to the Elite Eight. How weird was it that coaches couldn’t watch you play most of this season?
Abdoulaye Thiam: For sure. I’ll say this, the recruitment process was kind of hard. I feel it was kind of hard because of COVID and stuff like that. I started talking to people late and they found out I was qualifier. After Hutch was when most of the coaches started talking to me.
GopherHole: Were you thinking about going back to Indian Rivers for another year or were you always thinking about going right to a Division I school after playing the one season?
Abdoulaye Thiam: I was thinking about it. I was keeping my options open. I had offers, but I was willing to go back to Indian Rivers, too, so I had both options.
GopherHole: For Minnesota fans who haven’t seen much of you or have just seen your highlights, what do you see as your strengths as a player?
Abdoulaye Thiam: My shooting. Defense. My drive. I like to get hyped. I’m a “hype” person. I like to get hype.
GopherHole: What do you know about Minnesota? Have you ever been to Minnesota in your whole life?
Abdoulaye Thiam: No. I actually have never been to Minnesota. The only thing I know about Minnesota is that it is cold, when you talk about Minnesota.
GopherHole: I don’t know how much you know about the coaching staff. Ben Johnson is the new head coach. He was a former player here, but to be honest, a lot of the players that are going to be a part of the team, are new players. They are players who were in the transfer portal and a juco player, in yourself. Is that something that is appealing since normally when you went to a new school, there would be guys there that had been there for a couple of years, but everyone here is new and there aren’t going to be any favorites or guys who are definitely going to be starters right away. You are going to have to earn it and if you play well, you are going to get to play a lot.
Abdoulaye Thiam: Yes, for sure. To be honest, even if it were like a regular recruiting process and there were people there, I would still go there and work and try to compete because everywhere I go, I think I am the best player. I just roll and work and try to get minutes. All and all, the recruiting process is a blessing, especially since Minnesota is a rebuilding team. They are trying to rebuild the team. New head coach. I am willing to be a part of that. I want to be a part of that.
GopherHole: What do you know about the Big Ten?
Abdoulaye Thiam: I know it is hard. I know it is hard. I know high major people commit to Big Ten schools, but I’m not really worried about that. I just want to go in and work and show people my talent.
GopherHole: You made it to Hutchinson for the national championship. Normally, it is a great environment as the local fans really support the event and the city practically shuts down to attend games. I know that it was different this year with COVID, but what was that experience, not only getting to the tournament, which not many teams do, but also being a part of that?
Abdoulaye Thiam: It was a great experience, especially since it was so special for Indian Rivers and Coach Wilson. It was a great experience. I loved my guys throughout the whole year and they made me who I am today really, as a basketball player and the mentality. All in all, it was a great experience. A great experience for everyone. It was the first time that anyone witnessed it and everyone went to Hutch. It was a great experience and environment, even though there wasn’t a lot of people, you could still hear the crowd when you shot and scored and had a dunk. I wish that we could have won the whole thing, but it didn’t happen like that.
GopherHole: How did you end up at Indian Rivers?
Abdoulaye Thiam: I was obviously, not highly recruited in high school, but I don’t really care about that, because if you are good and have a spark, people are going to find you regardless. I knew that I was going to go to a Juco out of high school and I knew Indian Rivers was a school for shooters and development. Coach Wilson came to my camp and offered me on the spot. I had options and I wanted to options first, but I knew I was going to commit to Indian Rivers. I knew that they were a great school. They didn’t say that I was going to come and get minutes. They didn’t say any of that. They said you have to come in and work, if you want to be good. I said “Can you help me fix my jump shot and my feet?” and they did.
GopherHole: Minnesota also got a commitment yesterday from another Indian Rivers player in Charlie Daniels. Do you know anything about him or have you ever met him?
Abdoulaye Thiam: I never met him, but I’ve heard good things about him like he’s a beast. I heard he’s a worker just like me. I heard that he’s a beast. I heard the man works. I’m excited about him. I’m excited about the whole Minnesota community. I can’t wait to get up there.