Gueye's toughness eases the pain
APPARENTLY the knee is going to hurt me a lot more than it does Gueye.
Anyone else cringe when Ahmet Gueye hits the floor? When he gets into a scramble for a loose ball, when he commits a foul and comes crashing down, when he's involved in a pileup, when he comes up looking a little tender, when you can detect that little limp?
When he plays 40 minutes to open the season at UNLV?
I admit it, I'm cringing, I'm wincing, I'm gritting my teeth.
(Good grief, take it easy, the guy is still coming back, get him out, sit him down, wrap him in ice.)
Apparently it hurts me more than it does him. Apparently none of this is a problem for Ahmet Gueye, UH basketball player, tough guy. Yes, it's been only a few months since his ACL surgery, since he blew out that knee and then went under the knife, and you'd think
he'd be taking it slow. But no. Gueye is out there banging and 'bounding and shouting, and, yes, blocking shots, too.
(Even coming out to the top of the key.)
Tough. Just tough.
"I'm not a center any more," he said of being all over the court.
They serenaded him last night, as Hawaii rolled in its home opener against Coppin State: Gueye! Guuuueeeeyyyeeee!
He did everything. He filled up the stat sheet: 19 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks. But there was no number to measure why they were calling his name.
Tough. Just tough.
Never tentative, in every mix. He even took contact trying to get a drink, finding himself in a sideline scrum as he tried to sit down on the bench.
I was cringing. I was worried.
The man played like he never had a second thought.
Riley Wallace threw him out there. Kept him there. I watched through wincing eyes.
Gueye came alive.
"When I'm out there I don't worry about it. Just go hard," he said.
"I don't even worry about it at all."
At one point he took a hard foul, got up kind of gently, hopped a couple times at the free-throw line as if testing it out. Ooooh.
And then going back down the floor he was yelling, going full out, getting right back into it, jumping up for a block. Then he had a layup, and then he found Matt Lojeski with a great look under the basket, a whiparound pass.
Then a long jumper.
Then there was nothing he couldn't do.
He was giving out Bird looks. By the end of the night he'd ignited a Rainbows passing drill that ended with a P.J. Owsley dunk.
Only then, did he get a break.
"His leg was swelling a little bit so we've got to get iced down quick," Wallace said.
"But it's going to do that," Wallace said. That's part of it.
Business as usual as the Rainbows played their first home game of the year.
Riley Luettgerodt. It looks like I may need to learn to spell this guy's name.
Matt Lojeski driving baseline. Good sign.
"My shot wasn't falling. I was trying to get to the bucket, help my teammates," Lojeski said.
"I found a way to stay involved in the game," he said.
You could say that -- 23 points.
The Rainbows have five guys (at least) who can shoot the 3.
"Our shooters were back shooting," Dominic Waters would say. Wallace would disagree, on this night, but the potential is there.
Ahmet Gueye, we saw, can still get open inside, still rebound, still block shots.
"You just want to make sure he doesn't hurt himself now," Wallace did say, but didn't seem worried.
(A side note. Did you read Jason Kaneshiro's story yesterday? Gueye's quote? Here we have a very intelligent young man, speaks several languages, sophisticated foreign guy, and he's using the word "sucks." He's been in America for 15 minutes and we've ruined him already.)
"Ahmet's a warrior, he's going to go after every ball, every loose ball," Wallace said.
Biggest worry? Defense. Even Gueye has to cover more ground this season, in his new role. So much for having a bad wheel.
After the game, Gueye stretched out his knee, rubbed it. A minute later bent it back, winced.
Asked how he felt he said he was excited about playing his new position.
In the beginning I wondered what Wallace was doing keeping him out there through crash after crash. Now I know. By the end of the night even I wasn't afraid.