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Gorgui Dieng Dominating Early Stages of AfroBasket

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The Wolves Senegalese big man is proving to be the biggest star at the African basketball championships, leading Senegal to wins in their first two group games.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Gorgui Dieng appears to enjoy international basketball. You might recall that he performed quite well for an over-matched Senegal team in last year's World Championships, averaging 16 and 11 and helping them escape from their group before getting dismissed by Spain in the first knockout round.

Today, Senegal played, and won, their second group game at this year's AfroBasket tournament, the winner of which qualifies for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The win guarantees them passage out of group play, which is not a surprise, and they and Angola are the top teams in their group, and meet on Monday to determine the group winner.

The story so far, however, has been Dieng. In today's victory over Mozambique he merely went for 28 points, 18 boards, and seven assists, particularly dominating the 2nd half when Mozambique was trying to make it close. After scoring eight in the first half, he exploded over the 3rd and 4th quarters, widening Senegal's advantage and putting the game away. An array of jumpers mixed with dunks, domination of the glass and pretty passes highlighted today's performance. Dieng's 15 defensive rebounds was only two less than Mozambique had as a team. His 11-18 shooting buoyed the offense, while his paint presence and rebounding helped hold Mozambique to 37%.

This comes on the heels of his 26 and 15 in Senegal's opening win against Morocco, when once again thanks in large part to Dieng, Senegal was able to dominate the glass and overcome a poor shooting performance by everyone but Gorgui, who went 9-18 from the field.

Gorgui Dieng highlights from Senegal vs. Morocco

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DiZc3_fm8lc?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

After two games, Dieng leads the tournament in both scoring and rebounding, and in player efficiency by a wide margin. He's also clearly working on expanding his game; through two games he's 2-9 from three. Whether this is something he can ever do in the NBA remains to be seen, but he clearly has license with Senegal to spot up outside the arc.

His signature turnover problems persist, with 9 over two games, but he also has 10 assists, and clearly is asked to do a lot more with his national team than he is with the Wolves (though turnovers were a significant problem for him last season).

Getting his country to the Olympics would be a huge accomplishment: only 12 teams qualify. Only the winner of AfroBasket automatically makes it to Rio; the rest of the semi-finalists will participate in a qualifying tournament next summer prior to the Games that will determine three remaining spots, a tough hill to climb given there will be multiple quality teams from Europe and the Americas vying for those spots.

But Gorgui Dieng has been the best player at AfroBasket so far, and hopefully that will continue not only for the rest of the tournament, but into the Wolves season as well.