On Monday afternoon, Mouhamadou Gueye, who goes by “Mo,” chose to commit to Jeff Capel and Pitt, becoming the fifth addition to the Panthers roster this offseason.
“The biggest thing for me was development for the next level,” Gueye told Pittsburgh Sports Now when asked why he chose Pitt. “Obviously, the staff at Pitt has its experience developing players for the next level. Especially Coach Cape being at Duke, and Coach O’Toole. I think that is what ultimately led me to choosing Pitt. Also, it not being that far from New York. It still is far, but it’s not across the country, so Pitt just seemed like the perfect fit.”
Gueye, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward, is a native of Staten Island, New York, and most recently played two seasons at Stony Brook after a junior college stint coming out of high school. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the America East Conference, he was one of the most coveted big men in the transfer portal this year. After weighing his options over the past few weeks, he realized that he could not pass up the opportunity to play for Jeff Capel’s staff at Pitt.
“I had a Zoom meeting with the Pitt staff and instantly took a liking to them,” Gueye said. “I had my dad on the call and I spoke to all of the staff. Obviously, I got to quickly learn about Coach Capel and his accolades, who he has worked with in the past, and everything like that. Instantly, I just thought it would be a great fit for me. I also heard a lot of the guys on the team are New York natives, and the play style of the team seems like something that I can cater to. A lot of positionless basketball, that sort of thing.”
In the early-to-mid 2000s, the New York-to-Pitt pipeline resulted in Big East Championships, appearances in national rankings, and plenty of wins. Now, with Brooklyn native Femi Odukale and Staten Island’s own Gueye leading the way, Capel is once again working to recruit the hard-nosed New York players that once built this program to prominence.
“The toughness that comes with New York basketball, you know, you’ve got to really prove yourself,” Gueye said. “Everywhere you go, every single borough, every single gym, there are real hoopers there. The way you stand out, the way you get noticed, you have to just prove yourself. Especially being from Staten Island, out of the five boroughs, it’s the least looked-at. It is tough. We don’t get that much exposure, we don’t get as many scouts coming over here looking for people. There have been times in my career where I didn’t even know, I wasn’t quite sure where I was going to go with this. From there to where I am today, it’s wild. I think that’s just the thing that comes with New York basketball players. You automatically have this chip on your shoulder because growing up, it has always been the proving grounds. You go to high school games, tournaments, whatever it is, you’ve got hecklers in every crowd. Every possession you have to prove yourself.”
Gueye will provide defensive expertise and size on the inside for the Panthers, a team that was lacking height, shot-blocking, and depth in the middle.
“The biggest thing that stands out to everybody is my athleticism, the way I can run the floor, jump, block shots, you know, I have my length and all that,” he said. “But I think a good amount of my game doesn’t really get picked up by everyone right away. People who have known me for years, scouts and coaches, they notice my skill set. They notice that I can handle the ball well for my size, which is due to my late growth spurt.”
The growth spurt that he is talking about is the one that sprouted him from a 5-foot-9 guard on the JV team in high school to a now high-major college big man just a few years later.
“Freshman, sophomore year in high school, I was about 5-9, 5-10, playing point guard for my JV high school team,” he continued. “Fast forward to now, 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10, and still being able to handle the ball the same way. Still being able to shoot the ball with range, using my length and everything like that.”
After hearing about Gueye’s expanding big man skill-set along with his guard-like abilities, Capel made sure that Gueye knew how interested he truly was in having him join the team.
“That was a big thing with choosing Pitt and going to Coach Capel,” he said. “Immediately he recognized that I was a position-less player. I can play the three, the four, the five. I can be a stretch guy, I can be a point-forward, I can be a shot-blocker, I can do multiple things. And he has dealt with players like that before. One specific player that I think of is a guy like Brandon Ingram. 6-9, really lanky, and skinny. I feel confident going into somewhere like Pitt that I will be able to develop to the best of my potential under someone like Coach Capel and his staff at Pitt.”
While he does not know when exactly he will be getting out to campus, he is looking forward to finishing his last class at Stony Brook and completing his degree.
“I am in the process of figuring that out right now,” he said about scheduling a move-in date. “I am dealing with a summer class right now, and it will be the last class of my degree. So, I am trying to figure out when I can get there. Sooner rather than later, sooner rather than later.”