Maurice Ndour(Unics Kazan) Has The NBA In His Rear Mirror But His Focus Now Is Being Somewhere He Knows He Will Play

Some habits and desires never change ove rthe years as somehow one will always love eating a hot dog at the ball park with all the works or remembering that first poster with that super model on the bed room or even getting autographs which tends to be a man thing. I remember getting my first NBA team the Houston Rockets during the 81 finals against the Boston Celtics and showing everyone at school the next day my crumpled piece of paper with Moses Malone´s signature. Getting athletes autographs became a huge hobby in the 80´s for me, but died down near the end of the decade and didn´t get reborn again for some reason again in 2012-2103 when I returned home for a visit to Boston. Since being involved with professional basketball for more than 15 years, seeing those professional players in Germany and having dealings with ex NBA players every so often, that autograph bug in me got hungry again. The hotel choices of the NBA teams had changed since back in the day, but I had the chance that short visit to relive encounters with two ex easyCredit players Brian Roberts who had made the jump from Bamberg to New Orleans and PJ Tucker from Bamberg to the Phoenix Suns. Brian Roberts even greeted me with the surprised phrase “what are you doing here”? I had interviewed Roberts some years earlier when he was leading Bamberg to BBL titles. I also met up with Tucker who remembered me from an Allstar encounter in Ludwigsburg in 2012. So what do these stories have to do with Maurice Ndour? Well when I was checking the Eurocup rosters of the Fraport Skyliners opponents this season, I was pleased to see the name of Maurice Nndour a guy I had seen a few years earlier in Boston when he had played for the New York Knicks. Usually it was ex BBL players that had gone to the NBA that I had seen again, but now I had this opportunity of seeing an NBA player again after he had returned to Europe. I also had that one experience when I got 2012 NCAA champion with Kentucky Darius Miller´s autograph in his rookie season with the Pelicans, then covered him in Germany when he was with Brose Bamberg and interviewed him in Germany and then saw him again this season back in the NBA. Now back to Maurice Ndour. I´ll never forget that late afternoon waiting for the Knicks to depart. As is often the case, the stars with Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Kristaps Porzingas and Joakim Noah went in a straight line to the bus not even hesitating to make the effort to turn their heads to the horde of autograph seekers hanging out behind the security belt. Even if Melo didn´t make a lasting impression on me in terms of his willingness to stop for a few seconds and sign for me, his play on the court definitely did for Ndour. “Melo is one of the greatest players the game has seen and he is even a better person. If you know me, you know I like to challenge myself and I don’t never back down. So one time we were on our east coast trip about to play the Golden State Warriors the next day and I challenged him up on a one on one. He beats me 7 to 2 and trust me during that whole time, he probably took 2 dribbles the most. He is one of the toughest players to guard especially on that low post, you are on an island with him”, stressed Maurice Ndour. II didn´t get any of the stars autographs, but had to settle for guys like Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas, and Kyle O´Quinn. Heck even two time NBA champion Sasha Vujacic who was about to step on the bus stopped and decided to come over as fans politely asked him to do so. Oh yes and then there was a tall guy with a salad in his hand who even bent down so he could fit into my selfie. His name was Maurice Ndour. I was so excited to see him again in Frankfurt and hand him our selfie and ask for his reaction. Unfortunately our new meeting would never happen as he didn´t make the trip due to an injury with his team Unics Kazan. I did get to interview him later when he was back in Russia, but just never got to meet him again in person. He played for two great addresses in his first two professional seasons with Real Madrid and the New York Knicks, but got lost in the mix, but with Unics Kazan now he is finally able to get minutes and feel wanted in the success of the team.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber´s Moses Malone autograph that he got during the 1981 NBA finals between the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets

                Maurice Ndour is a 26 year old 206cm forward that was born in Sindia, Senegal and grew up in Mbour, Senegal playing football and basketball. He spent a good part of his young life in his home land Senegal, but then as a teenager got the rare opportunity to experience a total different lifestyle moving to Japan. He would live in Okayama which is about 100 kilometers north of Fukuyama. He would attend Okayama Gakugeikan high school and got to experience a new culture and lifestyle that very few Africans do. The ex NBA player still raves about his young teenager days in the far east. “They said the greatest gift you can give yourself, is the gift of traveling. Japan is like a second home to me. It helped me develop so much as a person and a basketball player than any other places I’ve lived so far. It was very important. I think it was the turning point of me believing that I could definitely play basketball professional. And as a person, the country has taught me what it really means to take care of one’s environment, to respect others, to always work hard and to never give up”, stressed Maurice Ndour. Even though he was an interesting young prospect, the African didn´t land in the NCAA right away and had to pay his dues first at junior college. He attended Monroe Coll. (JUCO) in New York City and got his first taste of basketball in North America. After his first season in 2012, he would only be 4 years away form the NBA via Real Madrid. If someone had told him in the summer of 2012 that four years later, he would be playing against the best players in the world and having daily conversation with Carmelo Anthony, he probably would of thought you were insane. “It would almost be unbelievable, but I had to see it for myself to believe it and back then I didn’t see myself playing at that level yet”,added Maurice Ndour. He was able to set his mark in the JUCO and was rewarded with playing in the NCAA in 2013 until 2015 with Ohio (NCAA) playing a total of 63 NCAA games. In his junior season, he played 34 games averaging  

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber bumping into Maurice Ndour then playing with the New York Knicks in January 2017 before a Boston Celtcs game in Boston

13.8ppg, 7.0rpg, 1.6apg, 1.6bpg, FGP: 53.5%, 3PT: 32.7%, FT: 74.0%. In his senior season he was able to improve his points, rebounds and blocking as he played 29 games averaging 16.1ppg, 8.4rpg, 1.6apg, 1.1spg, 2.1bpg, FGP: 50.4%, 3PT: 45.6%, FT: 77.9%. He remembers one game in particular where he blasted Buffalo for 31 points in a tight 63-61 win. “ We always had a tough battle against Buffalo but that game was one to remember. We won it by a touchdown pass from Antonio Campbell to me and I just turned around it and dunked the ball. It was incredible”, stressed Maurice Ndour. He will also never forget the one on one battles with Campbell in practices. “I think I had the upper hand back then probably due to him being young but if we had to do it now, I think it would be a fair fight, that kid is talented”, warned Maurice Ndour. In his senior season he scored in double figures in 25 games and registered 10 double doubles. He closed out his NCAA career in fine fashion as he averaged 25 points in his last four college games. He played at Ohio for only two seasons, but despite playing for two different coaches with Jim and Saul Christian, he was able to develop well and become the professional player that he is today. “It always hard to spend two years with two different coaches but I think they both prepared me for the future. Not only did they believe in me and put the ball in my hands a lot, they helped me understand the game and worked with me individually. I remember my first time on campus during the summer and Coach Jim Christian used to make me come early morning to do some individual workout with him before going to class. He was really hands on and available to the players”, stressed Maurice Ndour. He made the All-MAC 2nd Team in 2014 and 2015.

Before turning professional in 2015, he was already was able to compete against the best players in the world as he participated at the 2014 World Cup for Senegal playing 6 games averaging 5.8ppg, 2.5rpg, 1.3spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 23.1%, FT: 75.0%. His best game was scoring 13 points against the Philippines. In 2015 after leaving Ohio(NCAA), he played at the well known Portsmouth Invitational Tournament playing 3 games averaging 4.0ppg, 3.3rpg, 3.3 bpg, FGP: 30.0% and then played at the NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas for the New York Knicks playing 5 games averaging 9.6ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.0spg, 2.0bpg, FGP: 51.2%. He left a fine impression in Las Vegas and was signed by the Dallas Mavericks. He played pre-season for them, but had some major misfortune injuring his left knee and getting waived. After a few months of soul searching, he had to realize that the NBA was still a step too early, but what young 23 year olds can boast that they played their professional rookie season with Real Madrid one of the best clubs in the world. Ndour signed with Real Madrid in December 2015 and it would become an incredible challenging season filled with hardships. He came in mid season that was packed with incredible talent at every position and he found himself playing only 12 ACB games averaging 2.3ppg, 1.8rpg, and played 6 Euroleague games averaging 1.7ppg, 1.2rpg. Despite having such a tough rookie season, he stayed 100% professional and still was able to find positives from his rookie campaign. “I don’t think I have ever been that gloomy in my career. First time in Europe, playing for one of the best team’s and I didn’t really know what to expect. It was a struggle. I almost looked like I didn’t know how to play basketball. I was doubting myself and couldn’t really get the hang of playing basketball European style. Despite the fact that it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to be, I was grateful. I quickly learned what it meant to be a professional, to always come in to work regardless of the situation and what you are going through, to have a strong mentality so you don’t get broken or frustrated. It’s never easy but after a while it becomes second nature, you learn to cope. I really appreciated the fact that they let me grow as a rookie and as a person. Being in different situations and getting out of my comfort zone is something that I always had to do and that I really value. I think it would be way different now, if I ever have a chance to wear Madrid’s jersey again”, warned Maurice Ndour. The African was able to get support from everyone on his team including top Euroleague player Trey Thompkins who battled against him every day at his position. “It always nice to have somebody that you can talk to and obviously that had more experience than me playing in Europe. So definitely he was a big help during my time in Madrid and so was everybody really”, added Maurice Ndour. Besides living in an amazing city, and playing against top competition every weekend, he also had the pleasure of witnessing the very early development of basketball wonder boy Luka Doncic. “He is such a joy to watch. I mean back then he showed flashes of what he could do and almost every time he had the ball in his hands, he will make the crowd go wow. I have witnessed him making defenders fall, making tough circus shots”, added Maurice Ndour.

After getting that first taste in Europe with Real Madrid, he made the trek back over the pond and split his sophomore professional season between the New York Knicks and G-League team Westchester. He showed his high basketball class with the Westchester Knicks playing 18 games averaging 14.7ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.2apg, 1.1spg, 1.4bpg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 27.6%, FT: 77.9%. He scored in double figures in 13 games and had three double doubles. His best scoring games were against Eire Bay with 27 points and 26 points against Grand Rapids. He also got his chance with the New York Knicks playing 32 games averaging 3.1ppg, 2.0rpg. His best games in the NBA was a 15 and 8 effort against the Memphis Grizzlies and a 13 and 12 game against the Chicago Bulls. “I think both games were amazing. In Memphis I started the quarter really hot scoring the first 8 points of the Knicks but I think against Chicago was more memorable simply because we won the game and my mother was there to see me play. So that was cool”, stressed Maurice Ndour. He got his feet wet in the competitive NBA and if he ever gets through the door, he will be ready for new challenges and knows that what he learned the first time around will help him the second time around. “It’s not easy being on a team and not playing much but if there is one thing that I took from that experience is that you always have to stay ready so you don’t have to be ready. You could get subbed in at any given moment and that can just be the chance that you have been waiting for, you have to cease the moment. I think any organization where there is a lot of money involved, is going to be about business first. A team might play somebody who is less talented than you but they pay him more money than you do so of course he will get more minutes, that’s just business and you can’t get caught up with that”, warned Maurice Ndour. He also wouldn´t mind battling against James Harden a second time around since he was his toughest cover and demonstrate what he had learned in Europe after his first tour of duty in the NBA. “James Harden is the first name that comes to mind. We played them in preseason when I was with Dallas back in 2015. My length speed and quickness was no match to him. He made tough shot after tough shot”, warned Maurice Ndour.

Ndour who has the legendary Bill Russell on his personal NBA Mt Rushmore returned to Europe in 2017 and chose the lifestyle and the cold winters of Russia suiting up for Unics Kazan (Russia-VTB). He played in the second best European international club league Eurocup and top league VTB. In the VTB, he played 22 games averaging 10.4ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.1spg, FGP: 68.8%, 3PT-3(50.0%), FT: 86.4%. He scored in double figures in 11 games and had two great games against N Novgorod with 30 and 24 points. He played 12 Eurocup games averaging 5.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.3spg, FGP: 42.9%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 72.2%. He had a 11 point seven rebound effort against top Turkish club Darussafaka. He had a solid season in Russia reaching the Eurocup quarterfinals and VTB Final 4. “I think my season highlight was in the playoffs against Nizhny Novgorid. We played a tough game on their court and we battled all the way to the end and came with the last shot to win the game on an offensive rebound fade away shot by Melvin Ejim, it really showed our character”, added Maurice Ndour. After having only a few professional seasons under his belt, the African already can name his personal favorite starting five of teamamtes with Drimir Ferguson , Jaycee Carroll, Luka Doncic, Andrei Nocioni «El Chapu” and Hamady Ndiaye decided to remain with Unics Kazan. There is also a very plausible reason why he did. Why get into another situation where he won´t be playing and contributing when he can stay put with Unics Kazan. “It’s just the fact that I am playing compared to when I was in Madrid or New York. I think being able to play and being a part of the team’s success, has made Unics Kazan special”, stressed Maurice Ndour.

This season Ndour and Unics Kazan have been enjoying continued success as the club continues to belong to the top teams in the VTB league and currently in second place behind the mighty CSKA Moscow with a record of 20-5. They reached the semi-finals of the Eurocup losing to eventual winner Valencia. The African describes what the secret to the success of the club has been. “I think the talent is here, no doubt about it but what makes us so special is that we almost had everybody back from last year and we had the same coach so there were no adjustments period. We are all familiar with the system and above all, I think we defend and play as a team, we move the ball pretty well and anybody on our team can pretty much read the game and make a play”, added Maurice Ndour. It also helped the team dramatically that they were able to add two great players with Pierra Henry and Erick Mccollum who could make the difference between a title and not. “I think Henry has been a great addition, one of the most selfless point guards I know. He has the ability to make unbelievable plays and get his teammates shots. Eric is not new to the European scene. I think he established himself winning a Eurocup and Eurocup mvp so his experience and scoring ability will definitely be needed for our team”, warned Maurice Ndour. Despite battling some injuries, his stats have been solid as in the VTB he is averaging 10,7ppg, 4,5rpg,and 1,3bpg while in the Eurocup he averaged 9,6ppg, 4,2rpg, 1,1spg and 1,2bpg. He has benefited greatly from daily duels with ex easyCredit BBL MVP Raymar Morgan who has been a force where-ever he has played in his career. “He got the skills of a point guard in a big man frame. I have been impressed with how he plays with his back on the basket. I like competing with him“, warned Maurice Ndour. Seasons. Maybe their paths will cross again in Europe or in the NBA, but for now the African big man is happy to finally be playing again and being in a situation where he can help and be a factor in the success of a team something he couldn´t do in Madrid or New York.

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