Two weeks ago, Rhode Island secured its first 2021 commitment from rising 6-foot-8 senior forward Abdou Samb of Frederick Douglass High School and the DC Premier AAU squad. Samb is well-built and just scratching the surface of his potential. Born in Senegal, Samb migrated to the U.S. roughly seven years ago and has made quite an impression since.
“He is a great kid,” says high school coach Tyrone Massenburg. “He’s not a guy who has been spoon fed anything. Every person in the building, he has a relationship with, from teachers, to secretaries, to counselors, custodians, cafeteria workers and students. He supports everyone in the building, not just athletically but overall. Great family background, great work ethic and just a great member of the community.”
Under Massenburg’s mentorship and the accountability-first culture he’s built at Douglass, Samb is thriving.
“He walked in the door very green,” says Massenburg. “The first conversation I had with him was encouraging him in ninth grade to come to open gym. He came and you could see things that we could add to making him a better player and better person. You see the personality come out once you meet him. When he says, “Yes coach, I’ll be there,” you know he’ll be there. That’s what I told him from day one. If you are here and consistent I can help you with the rest. He’s grown in many ways: his skill development, maturity, and how he’s learned along the way from the upperclassmen. Our kids, even if not on basketball scholarships — they go to college. So, he’s had those examples. He’s stayed in the gym. He’s grown so much as a student, becoming an honor roll student since he’s been here.”
Massenburg expects Samb to fit seamlessly at Rhode Island.
“He is going to have so much pride in that school,” says Massenburg. “He’s going to do it the right way. His attitude is always going to be positive whether he’s playing or on the bench in a given moment. He’ll be a great asset to that school.”
I caught up with Samb to not only learn more about him as a person and player, but also about his decision to play for David Cox’s program.
Committed ‼️‼️✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/zsuOIamHtJ
— abdou (@_abdou_samb1) September 11, 2020
Chris DiSano: For Rhode Island fans, can you both discuss how you became involved playing this game that is now taking you to Kingston, and provide them a little background about you?
Abdou Samb: I really didn’t grow up playing basketball. I’m from West Africa, Senegal. And I didn’t really know what basketball was until my mom gave us the chance to come here to the U.S. because we did well in school in Senegal. I came to the U.S. when I was in sixth grade and we settled around the Upper Marlboro, Maryland area. My mom saw an opportunity for my older sister, my grandmother, and I to have a better opportunity here in the U.S. She played when she was younger but had to quit because she was the oldest and had to take care of her sisters and brothers. To be able to play now in the U.S. because of her is something I’m grateful for.
CDD: When did you begin to play basketball and develop a passion for it?
AS: When I was in the sixth grade I watched basketball a lot and that was back when Lebron was on the Heat. There was one game I was watching against the Warriors and Steph Curry started making all these threes and I just started liking the game. As I moved forward in seventh grade, I met some friends and they said “Man, you’re tall, you should play basketball.” One of them is now my closest friend – like a brother to me. We go to the same high school. He told me I should play and since then I started playing. I really didn’t get the chance to play in the seventh grade [at school]. At that time, I was playing with Maryland’s Finest (AAU). I was about 6-foot-5.
CDD: Can you describe how you like to play for fans and what you do well?
AS: I like to play hard. I love the game and I’m going to bring energy on both offense and defense. I’ve been trying to work on scoring at all three levels.
CDD: From the film out there on you it is clear you have been working on that face-up jumper from about 14-16 feet.
AS: Even as a big, I’ve always told myself I wanted to be able to shoot it… and I’ve worked at it. My ninth grade year when I came to Douglass, my coach [Coach Massenburg] saw a lot of potential in me. We focused on it with repetition in my ninth-grade summer. It’s coming easier for me now. Coach Massenburg pulled that out of me. I trusted Coach and he’s done so much to develop me. He has great thoughts and knows the game so well.
CDD: If you could describe your offensive game in one word what would it be? And if you could describe your defensive game in one word what would it be?
AS: Offense – Exciting. Defense – Energized.
Committed ‼️❤️ pic.twitter.com/obQF7AWwam
— abdou (@_abdou_samb1) September 11, 2020
CDD: Let’s discuss your recruitment. What schools other than Rhode Island showed significant interest? What was it about Rhode Island, David Cox and staff?
AS: I think all of the schools who recruited me were sincere. For example, Loyola Chicago picked up late and were really interested but unfortunately they were late. I already had my top three and they were here from the beginning, Rhode Island, East Carolina and George Mason.
Coach Cox’s honesty was what did it for me. Every question I had he was 100 (percent) honest with me. It’s very important. The way he and the staff answered my questions and broke them down was important. We didn’t talk over the phone, we always talked on Zoom and could see each other. I asked them about my role on the team and the plan they’d have – and they told me that everything is earned and can’t promise anything but they’d develop and build me into a player they know I can be in the future. I appreciated that honesty.
Coach Sutton too. I first saw him my 10th grade year. He came to our gym and was impressed – understood I was a hard worker. I can talk to him about anything. Ask him any question. We can talk about things I need to work on, what I’m good at.
CDD: What are your goals for this upcoming season?
AS: I want to win a State Championship. Individually, I want to work on consistency with my jump shot, playing more confident, playing free, enjoying the game, and having fun with my teammates. Last year we were in the semifinals. Coronavirus knocked us out. We want another shot.
CDD: What are your interests off the court?
AS: I’ve always been an outside person because I didn’t grow up with a PS4 in the house. Love to be outside.
CDD: What are your thoughts on the A-10 and playing in this league?
AS: I’m really excited. I can’t wait to learn and face the competition. I know Ronald Polite who is heading to George Mason. It’s a good league.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44