A Senegalese forward will not be allowed to play for the Minnesota Gophers this year after he failed to pass the school’s English proficiency entrance exam.
Gaston Diedhiou was expected to add some length to the roster with his athletic 6-foot-9 frame. But while he passed through the most substantial roadblock to beginning his college career – the NCAA’s Clearinghouse, which approved his application – he did not make it through the University of Minnesota’s admission office.
Director of Admissions Rachelle Hernandez told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the school doesn’t have a clear cut-off mark for English proficiency scores, but that it’s considered when accepting a foreign applicant such as Diedhiou. After consulting other admissions officers, it was Hernandez’s decision to hold off on accepting the basketball big man.
“Our assessment is really related to can the student be successful academically and can they be successful in an English-speaking setting,” Hernandez told the Star Tribune, referring to the general admissions process.
Diedhiou can take the test again before the spring semester which means he could jump onto the roster for part of the season, joining the team in December or January. But it’s hard to imagine that he could contribute much without time to adjust to the college game and to America as a whole – Diedhiou played his high school ball in the Canary Islands last year.
Minnesota had an unlikely run to become one of 2014’s top also-rans.
The Gophers won the NIT Tournament in Richard Pitino’s first year as head coach, after making it to March Madness the season before his arrival.
It looks like Diedhiou’s absence won’t have much of an impact on the current squad. Most fans and analysts expected the Senegalese player to sit out a year in order to acclimate.
Even for a collegiate player, he is a project.
Pitino took to the radio airwaves and said the team was trying to “make the best of the situation.”
“We received some disappointing news certainly,” Pitino said on the 1500ESPN station, “It’s a bit of a speed bump.”
If anything, the team’s long-term size will see the biggest impact. In its current form, the roster has only one player taller than 6-foot-8 for the 2015-16 season.
Diedhou would be the second if he eventually makes the team, but if he doesn’t, Pitino will be tasked with a difficult recruiting challenge while trying to regain some bulk in his frontcourt.