All the incentive Centerville 6-foot-9 junior Mo Njie needs to develop his promising basketball game is at home. Keeping up with younger brothers Kebba, a 6-6 freshman, and Baboucarr, a 5-7 seventh-grader, is enough of a challenge.
“They have more experience so that pushes me more to get up to their level,” Njie said this week prior to a preseason practice. “I don’t want to be left behind.”
There’s no chance of that. Not with some of nation’s most renowned collegiate coaches showing wide-eyed interest.
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The Centerville big man with limited experience and unlimited potential will be on full display as the boys high school basketball season begins Friday. The girls basketball season began last week.
The Greater Western Ohio Conference is loaded with other proven seniors in Samari Curtis (Xenia), Andre Gordon (Sidney), Amari Davis (Trotwood-Madison) and RaHeim Moss (Springfield). All but Moss have signed: Curtis with the University of Cincinnati, Gordon with Virginia Tech and Davis with Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Njie averaged just 2.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in limited minutes last season, but he’s already soared to the top of recruiters’ wish lists. Dayton coach Anthony Grant made an offer to him last June after Njie had a breakout AAU season with the C2K Elite program (16U).
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Additional offers from Xavier, Toledo and Providence followed. Ohio State, Purdue and Wright State are enticed. So is Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“Recruiting has been fun for me,” Njie said. “For me to get exposed to coaches I see on TV, people I look up to, wow. I spoke with Coach K and talked to him about what Duke is like.”
That’s heady stuff for a player with just one career start. It’s also what Elks coach Brook Cupps likes best about Njie.
“He’s such a great teammate and unselfish kid,” said Cupps, in his seventh season with the Elks. “He works hard, listens and tries to do what’s best for the team. The nicest thing about Mo for us is he’s not a prima donna. He’s all about the team. We feel lucky to have him and his teammates feel blessed to play basketball with him.”
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Njie and his siblings were born in the United States. His father, also named Baboucarr, is from Gambia in West Africa and played basketball at IUPFW and Cincinnati State. His mother, Siala, is from American Samoa.
His parents wouldn’t allow Mo to play basketball until the sixth grade, insisting he focus on schoolwork, instead. His brothers were allowed to play earlier when it became apparent all three would thrive in the classroom and on the court.
“I was excited to finally get on the court and get exposed to basketball,” Mo said. “I thought, all right, I’m here. I’m going to try this and see if I like it. I was mediocre. I was not good at all.”
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That changed after countless hours working on his game. Mo and his father, along with senior guard Ryan Marchal, work out before school at the Elks’ gym. Still a work in progress offensively, Mo has become a defensive presence – “It’s my favorite thing to do” - as a shot blocker, rebounder and running the floor. He has a wingspan of 7-2.
“I’m a small point guard and undersized,” said Marchal, who plans on playing at Huntington Prep (W.Va.) for one graduate season in 2019-20. “To be able to throw it up to a big man whenever you want and get some coaches here to look at you as well, it means everything to me.”
Centerville, 13-11 last season, hosts Springboro in Friday’s opener.
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