Malick Dime should never have trouble finding a job in basketball. The big man from Senegal possesses a trio of traits that any player would enjoy in a teammate. First, he can make you laugh. Second, he knows his way around the kitchen. And the third thing the MoraBanc Andorra big man gives his teammates is the assurance on defense that he has their back.
Dime has averaged 3.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in nearly 11 minutes through four games in the Top 16. The 28-year-old is still getting used to the 7DAYS EuroCup in his debut campaign in the competition.
"I still have a lot of things to learn about the EuroCup"
"It's exciting for me being the first year playing the EuroCup. It's also my first year in Spain, so I still have a lot of things to learn about the EuroCup. I want to help my team win as many games as possible. That is my main focus," said Dime, who had 13 points and 3 rebounds in his first game - a home loss against AS Monaco. "I played alright in the first game. It doesn’t matter to me if you score 20 points if you lose. My main goal is to get better every day."
It really shouldn't be a surprise that Dime is still getting better all the time. He only picked up the game in earnest in 2011, when he moved from Senegal to the United States to live with his mother in Columbus, Ohio.
"People saw I was tall and said I should take it seriously," said Dime, who was most passionate about soccer growing up. The 2.06-meter center actually played many different sports in Senegal, including track and field, volleyball, handball, tennis and karate.
"My dad used to tell me he's tired of sending me to a different sport every month. I always wanted to try every sport I could. They all helped me to get my footwork right in the transition to basketball, especially the soccer part because we used to play soccer a lot," Dime said.
He remains a big soccer fan to this day and is a long-time support of FC Barcelona, even using the royal "we" when talking about the team's season: "Hopefully next season we will pick it up and do what we are supposed to do," Dime said.
When he was looking for a college in the United States, Dime wanted a place where he could develop and decided on Indian Hills Community College, which was one of the best junior college programs in the country. He helped Indian Hills reach the junior college national title game in 2014, where they lost 87-77 to Jones.
"That was my second year of basketball. It was very disappointing because we had a really good team. We were supposed to win it without any doubt," said Dime, who struggled with fouls and recorded 3 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks in 17 minutes. "I learned that you always have to stay ready. We need everybody to show up and do what they're supposed to do. But it was really a tough loss because we were supposed to win it. And it didn’t turn out how we wanted it to."
After two seasons at Indian Hills, Dime transferred to the University of Washington where he played with future professional players Markelle Fultz, Matisse Thybulle, Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray. Dime had a major role on the team, setting the Huskies' single-season shot-blocking record.
"I don't really have any strategies of blocking shots. People always ask me how I do it, but it's just a natural given talent. I never worked on it. I actually wish that I could work on it in order to get more blocks," he admitted.
Besides his shot-blocking at Washington, Dime also grew in popularity for his lively attitude and joy of laughing with teammates. He also picked up fans by painting his basketball shoes to make it like he was wearing new sneakers - something he even did for teammates.
Despite playing his fourth season in Europe, Dime said he still has that same fun-loving manner: "I don't think it’s ever going to change. My teammates still love me and have fun," he said.
Dime added that his teammates enjoy being around him for another reason - namely that he likes fixing up a good meal for them.
"They want to be my teammate because I am a really good cook. I cook some amazing food. It’s the best you can get," he said with a laugh. "I make you laugh and I feed you."
His teammates also kind of feed him in that they play defense knowing that the big man is there to swallow up opposing shots around the basket. After breaking the record in college, Dime led the Bosnian and Bulgarian leagues in blocks and was second in blocks in Greece last season.
Dime has exhibited his shot-blocking prowess a bit more in the Spanish League than in the EuroCup. While he has 9 blocks in 10 EuroCup games, Dime has 25 blocks in 13 Spanish League games for an average of 1.9 blocks a game - ranking him second behind Walter Tavares of Real Madrid. Dime's goal is to finish the season ahead of everybody - including Tavares.
"My teammates still love me and have fun"
"That's my main goal, because basically every league I played in I led in shot blocks. I see myself as the leading shot blocker in the Spanish League. I just have to keep working hard and let it happen naturally because that's not something you can force. I just have that gift naturally. I have good timing. I just have to play and let it happen," he said.
Another of Dime's endearing traits is his ability to speak multiple languages. In addition to his native Wolof tongue, he also knows English, French, some Arabic and is working on his Spanish.
"When I’m on the court I mix everything, but lately when I block my teammates' shots I tell them 'fuera aqui'," he said, telling them to "get that outta here".
And it probably shouldn't be surprising if he had a smile on his face while doing it - just as any teammate would love to see.