Senior power forward Adama Ndiaye of the UCSB men’s basketball team left May 14 for his native Senegal to represent his country’s National Team in a series of games against the National Team of Cape Verde. The games begin Saturday, May 19.

“I think this will be a very good experience for me,” Ndiaye said. “We have a lot of guys who play in the U.S. and Europe who will come back to play for our National Team. It will be very exciting.”

Ndiaye was expected to have a huge 2000-01 season after averaging 9.3 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, and blocking 48 shots last year. Ndiaye then fractured a ring finger during practice just days before the season opener at Pepperdine. Adama was a legitimate candidate for Big West Player of the Year last season, and will be so again.

After recuperating in the early portion of the season and with the emergence of junior forward Mike Vukovich in the lineup, Ndiaye and the Gaucho coaching decided a medical redshirt was the best plan for the future of the program.

Ndiaye’s teammates were excited about their star player being able to proudly play basketball for Senegal.

“I think it’s real good that he’s going,” freshman center J.J. Todd said. “He hasn’t been back in about five years, and I’m sure he’s looking forward to getting to see his family and country again. [Hopefully the games] will give him some great workouts and will help him as a person develop.”

Vukovich, who strongly developed his post-game in Ndiaye’s absence and who is expected to form a sort of “twin towers” with Ndiaye, agreed with his teammate.

“I think he’s really excited to go home,” said Vukovich, who averaged 11.1 points and a team-leading 5.7 rebounds a game. “He hasn’t been home in five years and he’ll be real excited to get back and see everybody; as a bonus, he gets to play basketball.”

Santa Barbara is also hoping that full-speed game action will help Ndiaye hit the ground running when the regular season begins.

“We’ve been working out [against and with] each other,” Vukovich said. “He is starting to get the feel of the game back. Playing against other guys will definitely help.”

Vukovich and Ndiaye are also roommates, and Ndiaye’s absence will be felt in more places than just the T-dome.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot more quiet around here,” Vukovich said. “There’ll be less phone calls for him. It’ll be more chill. There’s only three guys here now [in the house], and one guy missing is a big chunk of the house.”

The winner of the Senegal vs. Cape Verde series will move on to the 16-team African Cup, which will be held this summer. The two teams that survive the Cup will qualify for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.