Abdoulaye Thiam ready to bring a show to Gophers men’s basketball


Photo by Kelly Hagenson / Courtesy of Gophers Athletics

Men’s head basketball coach Ben Johnson.

Tony Liebert

After one season at Indian River State College (IRSC), 6-foot-3-inch guard Abdoulaye Thiam took to Twitter to announce his intentions to transfer to the University of Minnesota late last month.

Thiam, an Orlando, Florida native broke onto the basketball scene in high school, where he attended Dr. Phillips High School. He would flourish and quickly develop into one of the best prep talents in the state. During his senior season, Thiam would net 34 points en-route to a Florida Class 7A, District 3 championship victory over Ocoee High School.

“He’s one of the best shooters in the state,” said Dr. Phillips head coach Ben Witherspoon after the game.

Following a successful high school career, Thiam would opt to go the junior college route. After receiving very few scholarship options he would ultimately choose to stay home and attend Indian River State College located in Fort Pierce, Florida. The Pioneers compete at the NJCAA level, and Thiam saw it as an opportunity to work hard.

“Coming to JUCO [junior college] right away, you have to work right away,” Thiam said. “Everybody’s main goal is to go D1 obviously, so you have to come here [JUCO] with a set mindset, everybody is trying to make it out of JUCO.”

Thiam did just that. In his first season of collegiate basketball he averaged 15 points and 3.7 rebounds per-game on remarkable shooting numbers of 56.1% from the field and 48.5% from beyond the arc.

He would lead IRSC to the national junior college tournament in his lone collegiate season. He performed best under the bright lights, recording 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field and 5-for-9 shooting from beyond the three-point line in a win vs. the College of Southern Idaho to reach the Elite Eight.

After a three point loss the following game, Thiam would receive a handful of Division One offers after the completion of his first collegiate season. Most notably Buffalo, Kent State and Coastal Carolina would all offer before the University of Minnesota.

“My mindset was always ‘I am going to go D1,’” Thiam said. “I never doubted that I was not going to go D1. I didn’t really start getting looks until we started making a tournament run, then I started having a lot of high major schools calling me.”

Thiam ultimately landed with the Gophers and first-year head coach Ben Johnson. The athlete took to Twitter to officially commit to the school on May 21 saying, “Let’s work.”

“Right now they’re in a rebuilding process, I would love to be a part of that,” Thiam said. “I like the school. I love the coach. I picked Minnesota because right now I feel like a lot of people are doubting the school; they’re thinking the basketball squad is falling apart, and they can’t get good recruits.”

The Gophers are entering a season with nine new players and counting, with Isaiah Ihnen as the lone returning player from last season. Thiam is well aware that it will likely be a rebuilding process heading into head coach Ben Johnson’s first season at the helm, but he is not shying away from the opportunity.

“Every recruit that we got, even the walk-ons, is a great fit, I am liking it,” Thiam said. “A lot of people have doubts about us and they don’t even know what is about to happen, so we just close our eyes, put our heads down and just work.”

When Thiam arrives in Dinkytown, it will be the first time that he has visited the land of 10,000 lakes. The Orlando, Florida native has seen snow only one other time, but he has already talked with some teammates to help him get acclimated with Minnesota and Gophers basketball.

“People are going to watch, and we’re gonna bring a show,” Thiam told new teammate Parker Fox.