Bryce Drew made some national waves on Wednesday evening when he announced the addition of Alabama transfer Moussa Gueye.
Gueye's name should be familiar to any diehard Valparaiso basketball fan, as the Senegal native once gave a verbal commitment (more on that later) to the Crusaders before taking his talents to Alabama.
Gueye wasn't what you'd call a superstar for the Crimson Tide, but his shot blocking prowess is enough to turn some heads. The seven-foot center shot well under 40 percent from the floor at Alabama, but Drew has expressed optimism that Gueye's offense will improve.
So just what should fans expect with the addition of Gueye?
Drew is getting a one-year rental that could completely alter the interior defense, allowing Bobby Capobianco to play power forward, and the Crusaders to field a much larger lineup than they have in years past. Drew could also be getting a player that doesn't fit in, is only interested in a pro contract and could be a season-long disaster. I think the chances that Gueye is a disruption are the same as the chances he scores 20 points a game. The truth will be somewhere in the middle.
The Crusaders have brought in their fair share of transfers over the last 10 years. Johnson, Wood, Boggs, Bogan and Capobianco are just a few of the names that standout, but they all pale in comparison when it comes to the incoming hype that accompanied Mohamed Kone.
Kone was signed, sealed and delivered to Baylor before the start of the 2005-06 season, but a hangup with some of his coursework meant Baylor couldn't take him. Call it a gift from a son to a father, but Scott Drew helped arrange for Kone to land at Valparaiso under Homer Drew in one of the biggest "What if?" moments in Crusader history.
What if Mohamed Kone had never joined the Crusaders?
Kone got off on the wrong foot with the coaching staff (but the right one with the media) when he said during a preseason interview that he was sure he was going to dominate the Mid-Continent Conference. Kone also got off on the wrong foot with several of his teammates, including Dan Oppland, during some now-infamous practice altercations.
The 2005-06 Valparaiso team ranks right up there with the 1997-98, 2001-02 and 2012-13 teams as having the most talent in school history. Oppland, Howard, Berdiel, Huff, Loyd, Colclasure and Miles were seven studs that should've won the Mid-Con with their eyes closed. Consider that freshman Brandon McPherson scored just three more points than Moussa Mbaye on the season and that freshman Jake Diebler hit less field goals than walk-on Jim Hooper and you get the idea of how loaded this team was. Throw in Kone and everything should've been great.
Kone's numbers (10.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg) weren't the problem. I can still hear the sound of a Kone block. I'd never heard anything like it. The closest I've seen to a Kone dunk in the last 10 years comes whenever Vashil throws down a jam. Kone was a monster in the paint.
No, it wasn't his contributions on the court that killed the 2005-06 team, it was his presence off the court. Maybe it was his arrival. Maybe it was the first time a punch was thrown in practice. Maybe it was because he was a one-year rental. At some point, the chemistry of that team went off the rails and when it did, any chance at success went out the window.
If Mo Kone never shows up, I say the Crusaders win the Mid-Con running away that season.
So, that brings us to Moussa Gueye and the 2013-14 Crusaders. I know I've just rambled on about Mo Kone, but now I'm going to say that you should forget about all that. Moussa Gueye will not have the same derailing effect on the Crusaders as Kone did and the reason I say that is because what is there to derail?
Like it or not, next year is going to be a rebuilding year. That doesn't mean the Crusaders can't have success. That doesn't mean they won't return to the NCAA tournament, but it does mean they'll have to rebuild to do it.
There isn't one player on the roster who will be in the same role as he was in last season (with the possible exception of Vashil Fernandez). Lavonte Dority and Bobby Capobianco will likely start every game. Jordan Coleman will be asked to do more. Even when it comes to Dority and Capobianco, there isn't a proven consistent starter on the team.
The 2005-06 team had six solid returners (seven if you count Berdiel). They weren't going through a rebuilding year. Adding Kone meant redefining roles after years of setting them. Adding Gueye to next year's squad will mean defining roles together.
I'm not saying that Gueye will be as good as Kone on-the-court, but I certainly don't think he'll be a problem off-the-court. If he is, he's a one-year rental and Drew will put him on the end of the bench and start playing the freshmen more.
I think Gueye helps this team by adding a shot-blocking presence in the middle. He allows Capobianco to play the four while making the Crusaders a much larger team. The most important benefit is that he'll battle Vashil every day in practice. Initial reports from Gueye's visit are that he and Vashil bonded immediately.
It will be interesting to see what kind of person Gueye is. Fans will remember that he gave Valparaiso a verbal commitment in 2009. As urban legend goes, Gueye didn't actually know what that meant and when asked in 2010 about his commitment, he said something along the lines that his JUCO coaches told him to say he was going to Valpo. I've heard that from enough different places to guess part of that is true, but it also doesn't matter. Gueye had his shot at Alabama, he proved he could block shots in one of the top conferences in the country and now he's back at Valparaiso.
Next season just got a little more interesting.