Updated: Apr 1
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Mady Sissoko, from Bafoulabé, Mali:
Pro Insight: Talk about your background. When did you start playing basketball?
Mady SIssoko: I started playing basketball because of my brother. I’m from Mali, I started playing basketball like 4 years ago. My brother told me “Mady you should play basketball” and I was saying “I don’t know” because I loved soccer, but he kept talking to me and finally I started playing basketball and one day I finally realized that this is something for me that I can do in the future and be great at it.
PI: How has playing soccer as a kid helped your basketball growth?
MS: Soccer definitely helped my basketball skills grow. All of my friends tel me “Mady, why did you quit playing soccer?” I have fun playing with them, but I told them “look, it’s good to be having fun, but I need to look at my future and what does it bring for me” and I thought basketball was best for me so I started playing more basketball. The past 2 years have been amazing for me, like it changes everything for me right now and I’m very lucky to be playing basketball.
PI: Did basketball come naturally or has it been a lot of work to get to where you’re at?
MS: Some parts of the game, like rebounding and running hard, it comes to me like when I step on the court every time...so, that’s been amazing.
PI: Describe your game – what are your greatest strengths and biggest areas for improvement? What’s the most underrated aspect of your game?
MS: I feel like every time I’m running hard and I’m rebounding. I’m a very competitive player. It’s good stuff.
PI: Where does your competitiveness come from?
MS: It comes to my mind every time I get the ball that I need to finish strong...every time I get the ball I just want to finish. It don’t matter who is guarding me - just every time I finish strong, I want to complete everything strong.
PI: What are your main goals you want to accomplish before your high school career is over?
MS: First I want to go to nationals...I want to win nationals. I want to win that thing next year. That’s every time I tell myself before I leave my senior year I want to win something for Wasatch Academy. Last year we had a chance to win, but it didn’t work out, but this year we got a really good chance and for sure we’re going to make it. We got to work harder and everybody has to work harder and we’re going to win this thing next year.
PI: College or pro, current or former player – do you model your game after anyone?
MS: I like to watch Joel Embiid and Giannis. I like to watch them because they’re running, especially Giannis - he’s running the floor every time and he blocks shots. That’s the guy who I am: I block shots, run, and rebound. I rebound hard and that’s who I am.
PI: Which position do you view yourself as?
MS: The position I see myself right now is just like playing 5 or sometimes 4.
PI: What are some things you’re working on this off-season?
MS: I work out with Paul Peterson and since the season is over we’ve been working on my handle, trying to catch the ball, improve my 15-foot jump shot, my post moves of course - stuff like that. When I get those things down I feel like I’ll be unstoppable.
PI: What has been a defining moment or story in your life? Why has that stuck with you and what did you learn from it?
MS: When I was young back home I worked on a farm. The best thing my dad taught me was working hard, every single time we went to work in the farm he mentioned “working hard.” He doesn’t play around, he just wants to work hard...that’s why everybody here today says “Mady is working hard, Mady is working hard,” even if I feel like I played bad they say “you played very good” and I’m like “no,” because my dad always told me “Mady, work hard, work hard” so that’s it.
PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
MS: Paul Peterson, he gives me a lot of great advice. Nothing specific, but I’m always asking him stuff and he gives me a lot of great advice.
PI: When did you realize you have a chance to make the NBA?
MS: When I got to Wasatch, my first year, I wasn’t so sure because I didn’t get the playing time. Then, my sophomore year I can see myself like playing basketball somewhere, and everybody was telling me like “Mady, you’ll be great, you’re going to make the NBA” and then last summer my name was in the top of the country (nationally ranked). I feel like every single year I’m improving and I feel like I have a great chance to make the NBA.
PI: What, or who, would you say is your biggest motivation in life?
MS: My mom motivates me a lot. My brother motivates me a lot. They call me and say “Mady, don’t worry about nothing back home. Just play basketball. Just do something you love.” And I told them I love basketball and they motivate me every time - my mom and my brother.
PI: Did your siblings play basketball? Are they tall?
MS: No, none of my brothers play basketball...only me plays basketball in my family. They play soccer, but I play basketball. I have some tall brothers - my oldest brother, he’s working in Paris right now; the other one is in the military, and the other one is a truck driver. They’re pretty tall. They didn’t get the chance to play basketball like I do. I believe that if they would’ve had the chance to play basketball, they would be in the NBA...they would be making great money right now, but they didn’t get the chance to play basketball, but I can push their dream and I feel like they didn’t have a chance, but I have a chance and I want to make them happy.
PI: What was it like going from Africa to Wasatch Academy like?
MS: It was kind of crazy to me...I never thought I would be here, and I feel like these guys recruited me and they want to find a school for me...I thought it was crazy that it actually happened. They wanted to bring me over here (to Wasatch Academy) and I didn’t even think about that, but when I started realizing it was real was when they started asking me about my passport and stuff. I wasn’t for sure if I wanted to come here to be honest, at first, but now I’m so happy it worked out.
PI: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
MS: 10 years from now I can see myself playing in the NBA, that’s my goal and it’s all of my family’s dream that I can be an NBA player.