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WSU Men's Basketball

Washington State’s Mouhamed Gueye picked in second round of NBA draft, traded to Atlanta Hawks

Washington State post Mouhamed Gueye attempts a shot against Cal on Jan. 11 at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman. Gueye will begin his NBA career with the Atlanta Hawks, who acquired the 6-foot-11 post in a trade during the second round of the NBA draft on Thursday.  (WSU Athletics)

PULLMAN – Four years ago, Mouhamed Gueye moved from Senegal to the United States in pursuit of a career in basketball.

Before he came to America, Gueye had never played an organized game of hoops. But he developed into a high-major recruit during his brief prep career in Northern California, then became a professional prospect during his two-year stay at Washington State.

Now, the Cougars’ star big man has reached the sport’s highest level.

Gueye was selected Thursday in the second round of the NBA draft – 39th overall – and will begin his pro career with the Atlanta Hawks, who reportedly traded to acquire the 6-foot-11, 210-pound power forward.

“They’re getting a kid who just started playing basketball, who is pretty good and who will be even scarier going forward,” Gueye told writer Wheat Hotchkiss earlier this month.

“I just started. I’m still learning a lot. My game is going to be different in three or four years, for sure. … My game is going to go to the next level, for sure. This is just the beginning.”

The 39th pick was originally held by the Charlotte Hornets, but it was traded to the Boston Celtics, who then sent Gueye to the Hawks, according to multiple reports.

Gueye boosted his draft stock as a sophomore last season, when he emerged as one of the Pac-12’s top talents.

He landed on the all-conference first team after averaging 14.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Gueye led the Pac-12 with 15 double-doubles and 3.4 offensive rebounds per game.

His responsibilities expanded tremendously from his freshman to sophomore seasons. The Cougars were shorthanded in their frontcourt, so they were forced to play Gueye at the center position, rather than his natural spot at the “4.”

Gueye embraced the new challenges and served as the centerpiece of WSU’s system. The Cougars “played through Gueye,” coach Kyle Smith said on numerous occasions.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I’m that guy,” Gueye told The Spokesman-Review after the season. “I showed that I can be that guy.

“My confidence got the biggest boost. Being in the position where they’re giving you the ball a lot – having the ball more showcased my talent.”

Between his rookie and sophomore seasons, Gueye put on more than 10 pounds of muscle and made notable improvements to his passing abilities, foul-shooting and efficiency on pull-up jumpers from short range. Gueye became a bigger scoring threat – he set a career high with 31 points against USC on Feb. 2.

Gueye shot 48.8% from the field and 67.4% from the free-throw line and also showed some flashes from 3-point range (11 of 40).

“Honestly, I think (NBA) teams have seen enough,” he said in March.

NBA franchises surely were impressed with Gueye’s length – his 7-3 wingspan – his developing offensive skill set, and his ability to rebound and block shots.

“He’s a guy that’s got a ton of potential,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said after Gueye’s name was called. “He can create quality looks at the rim and is an underrated passer. … I think he’s going to be a solid defender and his measurables are really, really good.”

Gueye declared for the draft on April 4, then spent two months working through the predraft process – exercising for pro organizations in solo workouts and auditioning at the NBA draft combine in mid-May.

Entering draft night, Gueye was the No. 46 overall prospect and the No. 11 power forward, according to ESPN’s rankings. Gueye, accompanied by Smith and some family members, attended the draft in Brooklyn, New York. Gueye beamed as he walked across the stage at Barclays Center.

“Four years ago, I was at home, not thinking about basketball, just having fun with it and playing soccer,” Gueye said in March. “It’s pretty crazy when I think about my journey so far. But I’m just trying to keep going, trying to improve. It’s kind of normal to me, like, ‘What’s next?’ ”

Basketball was just a hobby for Gueye throughout most of his upbringing in Dakar, Senegal. But he showed promise while participating in local pick-up games against high-level players from the area. Encouraged by his friends and family members to pursue basketball, Gueye began to realize his potential in the sport.

At age 16, Gueye caught the interest of Mamadou Cisse, a well-connected basketball trainer who was on a scouting trip to Senegal. Cisse took Gueye under his wing and eventually got the young player in touch with Prolific Prep, a hoops academy in Napa, California.

Gueye enrolled at Prolific Prep in 2019 and spent the next two seasons with the program, playing alongside and against many highly ranked recruits. Gueye finished his academic requirements early and reclassified to the 2022 class.

The No. 34-ranked recruit nationally coming out of high school, Gueye chose WSU over several high-major offers, including Kansas and UCLA. When he joined WSU, Gueye became the program’s No. 3-rated recruit since 2000, per

Even as a raw true freshman, it was clear that Gueye had pro potential. He made 33 starts during his freshman season, posting per-game averages of 7.4 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 49.1% from the field. He was named to the Pac-12’s all-freshman team.

Gueye declared for the draft after his freshman season and spent the offseason gathering feedback from NBA teams. But he decided it’d be best for his NBA future to return to WSU for another season.

“The more I played, the better it was for me,” Gueye said.

Gueye is the 32nd player to be drafted out of WSU, and one of only four Cougar players since 2000 to be selected. Gueye is the first draft selection from WSU since forward CJ Elleby went to Portland in the second round in 2020.

Two other former Cougars – guard Justin Powell and post Efe Abogidi – are hoping to find pro landing spots after going unselected on Thursday.

Ahead of the draft, Powell was the No. 78 overall prospect and the No. 14-ranked point guard, per ESPN.

Powell started every game for WSU last season after transferring in from Tennessee. The 6-6 Kentucky native averaged 10.4 points and a team-high 2.8 assists while committing less than one turnover per game.

The general expectation was that Powell would receive notes from NBA teams and return to college, but he made a surprise decision on May 31 and elected to stay in the draft pool.

Abogidi was the No. 100 overall prospect and the No. 10-ranked center for the draft, according to ESPN.

The 6-10 Nigeria native started 56 games for WSU between 2020-22, recording career averages of 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. After his sophomore season, Abogidi joined G League Ignite – a developmental program that offers an alternative route to the NBA for players forgoing college ball.

Abogidi averaged 9.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game during Ignite’s 18-game “Showcase” schedule. A knee injury limited Abogidi to four games in the team’s regular season.