John Wall and Hamady N'Diaye's late-night workout
The day before the Wizards began their Summer League training camp earlier this month, Hamady N'Diaye checked into the team's his Chinatown hotel before fellow rookie John Wall. The hotel clerk told him Wall would be arriving later that day. N'Diaye said he wanted to meet him, and asked for the clerk to let him know as soon as Wall arrived.
So not long after Wall and his traveling companion arrived at the hotel, they wound up in N'Diaye's room.
"We were just sitting in the room," N'Diaye told me. "[Wall] was like, 'I'm bored, I'm bored.' He was like, 'You know what, we should go shoot.' And I said, 'I don't mind, let's go.' "
Which is how Wall and N'Diaye - a 19-year old kid from Raleigh and a 23-year old college graduate from Senegal -- wound up on Verizon Center's practice court sometime after 10 p.m. on their first night in the city, dribbling basketballs. They shot around, then they began doing organized drills, and finally they started practicing the pick and roll, before finally going back to their hotel around midnight.
Wall earned plenty of praise for his play in Las Vegas last week, but he had already impressed N'Diaye from the time they met in the hotel.
"Some players really take it the wrong way, when they're the No.1 pick, all that hype and everything," the 7-footer said. "He's not one of those players. That's the main thing I really like about him. He keeps to himself, and how do you say? He's conservative about his ways."
And so, in their first week in D.C., the guard and the center began hanging out. Every morning before he left the hotel, N'Diaye would text Wall. Every night, Wall would come up to N'Diaye's room for a visit.
"He just knocks on the door, and I know it's him, because he's the only one that comes to visit me," N'Diaye told me back then. "He comes in, we talk for a little bit, couple seconds or whatever, and then he goes back to the room."
The bonding didn't necessarily translate onto the court in Vegas. Wall was dynamic, averaging better than 23 points and 7 rebounds as he won the League's most outstanding player award. N'Diaye was mostly quiet, averaging 3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1 block in 12.6 minutes per game. Coaches said he just needs more experience.
But N'Diaye has the gift of making people like him, which is probably why coaches spoke so fondly of him, and why it took all of one day for he and Wall to become friendly.
"I mean, my relationship with everyone is going to be important on this team. That's one of my goals -- I plan on really getting to know these guys and learning from everyone," he said. "That's one of the main things, you've got to develop a relationship with all your teammates. [Wall] was the first one. We just clicked."
So in practice, Wall began calling N'Diaye "Africa." They went out to some meals, where N'Diaye noticed the fans noticing Wall - "I looked around and said, 'Oh yeah, they got you.' " he remembered. They didn't talk much about basketball in that first week, and Ndiaye didn't go visit Wall in his room, explaining that he didn't want to bother the young star. But he, like everyone else, was excited by the potential.
"He doesn't have any problems -- he's still young and appreciating everything and he works hard," N'Diaye said. "That's the main thing you can have. I don't mind that."
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