On the day Trevor Booker and Hamady N’Diaye were drafted by the Washington Wizards, there was little discussion about the contributions they could make to the team. There was casual mention of them both being mature seniors, but little else. The focus on that day, was number one draft pick John Wall.
Yesterday, when Booker and N’Diaye were officially introduced by Team President Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Flip Saunders, it seemed like both players would finally have the spotlight to themselves. But less than an hour after their introductory press conference was completed, the Wizards announced a trade that sent Quinton Ross to the New Jersey Nets for Yi Jianilian and cash.
Luckily for Booker and N’Diaye, Grunfeld knows just how important both players are to the Wizards.
“We had a couple of objectives in this draft, and we wanted to get tougher. We wanted to get players in this organization that were going to play hard every single night, be professional, and carry themselves in the right way,” Grunfeld explained. “I think that with these two players we were able to get that. We think they bring something special to the table, physicality, defensive presence, and an aggressiveness I think we were looking for.”
Coach Saunders shared the same sentiment.
“At the end of last year when we talked about moving forward and especially when we obtained the number one pick in the draft, we said in order to get where wanted to get and be a championship caliber team, we had to improve our competitiveness, improve our intensity, our character of our players–and knowing that every time they stepped on the floor they were going to play at an extremely high level. Both these guys possess that,” Saunders told the media.
Booker, who says his game is similar to that of Paul Milsap and Carl Landry, led Clemson in scoring and rebounding during his senior year, by averaging 15 points and 8.2 rebounds. But when asked what the biggest strength of his game was, he went in a different direction.
“I love defense,” Booker said confidently. “If an offensive player tries to challenge me with the ball, I’m not going to back down from anybody. It’s a big challenge for me. I don’t want anybody to score on me or score on my team. I’m going to do anything I can to keep the ball from going in the hole.”
N’Diaye, who compares himself to Ben Wallace, averaged 9.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and a whopping 4.5 blocks a game during his senior year at Rutgers en route to Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors.
While talking with the media he was very candid about his shot-blocking abilities and how he sees his game overall.
“I’ve got a long way to go. Six years of basketball, doesn’t mean this is my best,” N’Diaye said with a huge smile. “Blocking shots really… its a feel. Its something that I love to do, and like Trevor[Booker] said, I don’t like when people score on me, so I will jump as high as I have to, to get that ball.”
Both Booker and N’Diaye wowed Saunders and the Wizards coaches in their workouts. Booker said he had a “LeBron James-like” block on one of the players he was facing and the coaches were really impressed. N’Diaye was blocking every shot in sight during his workout, but not keeping them inbounds.
When Saunders asked him why he kept sending the ball out of bounds, N’Diaye replied: “Coach, the crowd goes crazy!”
Booker, N’Diaye, the much ballyhooed John Wall, and the other summer league invitees will participate in rookie mini-camp, before they head to the Vegas Summer League, Saunders said during the press conference. Specific dates for the mini-camp were not given.