Brethren Christian center Mamadou Ndiaye towers over his teammates before the start of a recent game against St. Margaret's.
Click on the photo for a slide show of Ndiaye in action.

At 7-5, O.C. player has quite the view from above


We can't tell his story from his viewpoint, in part because, we don't have his viewpoint.

That won't be a problem, though, since almost no one on the planet shares Mamadou Ndiaye's viewpoint, his perspective set decidedly north of everyone else's.

"It's kind of like playing a video game when you can create your own player and make him two feet taller than everyone else," Sager Moritzky says. "It's fun to do, you know, but it would never happen in real life. Then, here it is."

Moritzky, a junior guard at St. Margaret's, has just finished playing against Ndiaye and Brethren Christian.

Click here for a slide show of Mamadou Ndiaye in action

Moritzky is 5-foot-8. At one point during the game, Ndiaye jumped over him. Ndiaye swallowed Moritzky's pump fake, lunged in the air and, just before landing on his opponent's neck, spread his legs and passed clean over Moritzky's ducking head.

Everyone in the gym laughed, even the referee who, trusting his eyes and concluding that something just had to be wrong with the play, called Ndiaye for a foul.

It was an unusual looking sequence, certainly, as eye-grabbing as Ndiaye is, and – just look at the photos – he is an absolute magnet for the pupils.

Ndiaye is 7-5. That's 7 feet, 5 inches. In his bare feet. He can touch the rim without jumping. He has two inches on the tallest player in the NBA. It's possible no one ever has played high school basketball in America at a greater height.

"When I saw him, I thought, 'Man, I wish I could be that tall,' " Moritzky says. "But then you think, 'Who's that tall? Nobody.' Personally, I thought 6-5 was tall. When you first see him, it is pretty ridiculous."

We can't tell his story from his viewpoint, in part because, we weren't given access to his viewpoint.

That won't be a problem, though, since Ndiaye is still just a kid and has enough people staring at him already without his personal life being turned inside out, too.

So the private side of Ndiaye will remain private. For now. His legal guardians in Huntington Beach continue to deflect interview requests and have asked the media to refrain from approaching him.

It's all an effort to keep things as normal as possible in a life that, because of 7-foot-5, can't possibly be normal.

We can report that Ndiaye is from Senegal and originally attended Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley. About a year ago, he transferred to Brethren Christian, where he's a junior. He recently turned 18 and, before you ask, yes, official schools have triple-checked his documents.

"When this came up, I knew there would be those questions," says Jon Bahnsen, Brethren Christian's head basketball coach and athletic director. "So, from the start, we've been as transparent as possible. There's never been any question about it as far as transcripts, birth date, any of that type of stuff."

The curiosity in a 7-5 teenager is as understandable as it is unavoidable. If it isn't a reporter calling Bahnsen's cell, it's a college coach texting him. The school's phone rang recently and it was someone from the Guinness World Records.

Brethren Christian has only 250 high school students and starts with sixth grade. That means Ndiaye is sharing hallways with kids as young as 12 and, in some cases, barely half his height.

"One of the amazing things about him is he fit in right away," Bahnsen says. "The littlest kids come up and give him five and talk to him. It has a lot to do with his personality. He's not a guy you're going to be scared of. He gets along with everybody. The teachers like him. The kids like him."

Even his opponents – despite Ndiaye's per-game averages of 23 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks – like him. Not that he gives them another choice. On the court, he smiles and laughs and slaps hands – with both teams.

When St. Margaret's David Nissenoff hits a pair of 3-pointers, Ndiaye extends his right palm toward him while trotting back down court both times.

During a stoppage, Ndiaye leans forward and says something to St. Margaret's center, Byron Manzo. Asked about the exchange afterward, Manzo says, "He told me I had nice shoes."

Before leaving the game for good, after he has scored 31 points and dunked nine times in what will be a 66-52 Brethren Christian victory, Ndiaye bends down low to speak to Nissenoff. Way down low. In order for the scene to be pictured as accurately as possible, we must report that Nissenoff is 5-foot-4.

"He said, 'Nice shooting,' " Nissenoff explains. "He told me he was going to have to guard me next time."

Yes, Ndiaye, despite his NBA body – he weighs 310 – still has a prep personality. During pregame warmups, he dribbles between his legs and unleashes 3-pointers – two skills that a 7-5 player is unlikely to employ. Ndiaye looks like a Laker who, inexplicably, has decided to join a high school team for layup lines.

He acknowledges familiar faces in the crowd. People descend the wooden bleachers to take his picture. He does fit in with his custom-ordered uniform and sweats, even as his size 19½ lime-green shoes stand out.

"When he walks in, that's obviously surprising to see," Bahnsen says. "When he first got here, you'd see him walking around and you might think, 'Oh, freak show.' But that ended very quickly. It's been a pretty easy fit."

It isn't a freak show with Mamadou Ndiaye, but it is a show, a show worth seeing while you can.

With stories like this one, it just doesn't matter what viewpoint you have, not when there's so much there to see.


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