On Saturday, Louisville junior center Gorgui Dieng is set to make his triumphant return to the Cardinals lineup against arch-rival Kentucky. Dieng has been sidelined since Nov. 23 with a fractured left wrist that he sustained during a game against Missouri. Not only will he be able to partake in one of college basketball's greatest rivalry games, but his parents will be on hand to see him play for the first time in his collegiate career, as well. Dieng has Lesley Thomas to thank for that.
From The Dagger:
Thomas and her husband Scott, Dieng's host family while he played high school ball at Huntington Prep, spent the past five months working on the logistics of getting Momar Dieng and Seynabou Diagne to Louisville in time to spend Christmas with their son and attend Saturday's game against rival Kentucky.
Since obtaining passports and visas can often be problematic in Senegal, Thomas worked with Dieng's English-speaking family friend Assane Badji to complete the necessary steps and arranged for Louisville officials to send letters to the Senegalese embassy verifying Dieng's good academic standing. Thomas and her husband also purchased round-trip plane tickets for Dieng's parents enabling them to come to Louisville for two weeks.
"He kept saying, 'I can't wait to see their faces. They're going to be in such culture shock,'" Lesley said. "I was like, 'Gorgui, are you sure this is a game they can handle?' We're either going to have to escort them out or they're going to have the time of their lives."
Saturday's meeting will be the 45th overall between UK and UofL. Kentucky leads the all-time series, 30-14, and have won four straight over Rick Pitino's team.
However, No. 4 Louisville (11-1) enters this one as the odds-on favorite. Dieng, who was averaging 8.2 PPG and 8.0 RPG at the time of his injury, is sure to increase those odds, and his parents will be in the KFC Yum! Center to witness it all.