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Notre Dame Basketball

Coach | Notre Dame Transfer Kebba Njie Is A Winner & A Worker

May 23, 2023

Pat Holmes has a good idea of what the Irish men’s basketball program is getting in Kebba Njie‍, a 6-foot-10 forward who announced his transfer from Penn State to Notre Dame earlier this month.

“I think the first thing that comes to mind with Kebba is that he's a winner,” says Holmes, who coached Njie for two years at La Lumiere School in Indiana.

“Before he came here, he was at a very strong high school program, at Centerville High School, down in the Dayton (Ohio) area. Played for Coach (Brook) Cupps, who's done a tremendous job there. Then when he came here, he helped lead our team to back-to-back Geico, national tournament berths. And then, obviously his freshman year at Penn State, helping Penn State get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over a decade and win a game in the NCAA tournament, the first time since 2001.”

Njie played in all 37 games for the Nittany Lions last season under then-head coach Micah Shrewsberry, who will again be his head coach in South Bend.

“Last year he had some growing pains at Penn State, which is to be expected as a young guy kind of getting thrown in the fire, having to go guard the likes of Zach Edey is no easy task,” says Holmes. “But where he was at the beginning year to where he was at the end of the year, he was a totally different player.

“He was more confident in his skillset and who he was, and his production was better, especially going to the offensive glass. Getting extra possessions for his teammates, defensively just being really solid, walling up, and making life difficult for the opposing team's big man. Cleaning up the defensive glass.”

Despite those “growing pains” Njie started 26 games for Penn State.

“It shows who Kebba is, mentally tough to fight through the adversity,” says Holmes. “Because there were definitely some setbacks and he'd tell you that, but it made him better. But then I think it also speaks volumes of Coach Shrewsbury and his staff in terms of sticking with Kebba, instilling the confidence in him that he is good enough to play at that level at such a young age, helping Kebba get from point A to point B.

“But the big thing about Kebba is he's a worker. He’s going to go take care of his schoolwork, he's a great student, works hard, teachers love him. Then when he is not doing his schoolwork, you're going to find Kebba just living in the gym. That's what he likes to do. At La Lu, he was always up at like 5:30 in the morning. Getting in an hour's worth of work before school started. Even when it was the middle of January, freezing cold outside and you don't want to walk down to the gym, he was always up and at ‘em ready to go, ready to get better.”

Njie averaged 3.4 points and 3.5 rebounds as a freshman for Penn State.

“I think at Notre Dame, he's going to bring those winning intangibles,” says Holmes. “He's a guy who’s easy to play with. All of his teammates love him. All the coaches enjoy working with him. I think it helps too that he's a guy that knows Coach Shrewsbury and, and that coaching staff having played for him for a year.

“So, as Coach Shrewsbury and those guys try to implement their system, both defensively and offensively, Kebba can be an extension of the coach on the floor, which is a major positive for all parties involved.”

Holmes is hesitant to speculate on just how good Njie could be ultimately.

“I never want to put a ceiling on a guy,” the coach says. “I think then you just limit what they're capable of. I think everyone at that level is working towards playing professionally, obviously in the NBA, and that's Kebba's dream. He wants to help the University win, but, like every young guy, every guy in college basketball, he's got a dream of playing in the NBA and he's going to work as hard as he can to attain that goal.

“So, like I said, I'm not a big fan of putting a ceiling on a guy because I feel like there are plenty of guys had a ceiling put on them who are NBA All-Stars now. But he will be one of the hardest workers, if not the hardest worker on that team.”

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