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March 23, 2012Though his debut season at Cincinnati included several low points Cheikh Mbodj looks back fondly.
"We overcame a lot of things together, being in hard situations," said Mbodj. "We overcame a lot of stuff together."
Junior college transfer Cheikh Mbodj got a slow start to the season. He missed the first three games with a lingering ankle injury. head Coach Mick Cronin decided to play it safe and keep him out until it fully healed.
The first time Mbodj appeared capable of competing at a high major level was December 2nd against Miami (Oh). He posted a career high (still) 12 points on 5-9 shooting.
And then days later his career teetered on the edge of a cliff.
Mbodj was stunned by his suspension following the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl. He was touted as a high character signing by Coach Cronin, but his involvement certainly deserved condemnation.
When Gates cried at The Apology Mbodj's eyes welled up in observation.
It was easily his lowest point. For Mbodj the season's highlight is inarguable.
"Having the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament," said Mbodj. "That is a great feeling. You know, having a chance to play in it with my teammates. And the coaching staff. That has been a great experience."
Mbodj played 23 total minutes in the NCAA Tournament. His best game came against Texas wherein Mbodj added a bucket and tugged down three rebounds. He was even able to snatch two offensive boards against a physical Texas squad.
Yancy Gates did very little visible encouraging. He was not known to motivate teammates or offer advice. To Cheikh, Yancy did inspire.
"He has been like a brother to me."
Mbodj continues to learn how to use his big body. Gates demonstrated the greatest agility of his career this winter.
"He always a great player because he is always patient," said Mbodj. "He really plays patient and he knows when to go hard and he is patient at the same time. I have learned a lot from him as a player and as a teammate."
He will miss both Dion and Yancy. Together the two outgoing seniors rank in the Top 5 for UC Career Games played.
"They mean a lot to me, me being from a different place," said Mbodj. "Not only me but the whole team. They are like brothers. We are like a family. We are really going to miss them as teammates."
It seems bizarre, but Cheikh becomes a senior now. Cashmere Wright, JaQuon Parker, and Mbodj represent the forthcoming senior class.
Their leadership will help push the next Bearcat team to loftier plateaus.
"In the offseason I want to get better as a player," said Mbodj. "Just keep working and getting better and get my ankle right and be ready for next season."
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