UC Irvine’s Center Mamadou Ndiaye Tallest Basketball Player in the Nation
SEATTLE — Some of the campus buses at UC Irvine feature a picture of 7’6″ Mamadou Ndiaye, the Anteaters’ center and the tallest player in the nation, with his arms spread wide, his 8’1″ wingspan stretched from one side of the bus to the other. There is a lifesize cutout of him at Irvine’s Bren Events Center for fans to stand against and gain a better idea of just how gargantuan he really is. But none of that was necessary to make Louisville coach Rick Pitino appreciate Ndiaye’s height and length. “I thought he was eight feet tall,” Pitino says.
The only short thing about Ndiaye was his stay in the NCAA tournament. It ended after one game when the 13th-seeded Anteaters narrowly missed toppling No. 4 seed Louisville on Friday, losing 57-55, which, unless you’re a Cardinals fan, is a shame because Ndiaye might well have become one of the darlings of the tournament had Irvine lasted a bit longer. The non-Louisville fans at Key Arena roared their approval on each one of his six buckets, especially when he slapped the floor after one of his dunks. It proved that tourney fans love to root for the little guy even if the little guy is seven-and-a-half feet tall.