Gorgui Dieng cleared to practice, play

Updated: October 27, 2010, 9:11 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Louisville freshman Gorgui Dieng has been cleared by the NCAA and is immediately eligible to practice and play for the Cardinals, team spokesman Kenny Klein said Tuesday.

Dieng, who played last season at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, was declared ineligible due to academics just three weeks ago. Louisville appealed the decision and won a reversal.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino asked the school to appeal the matter, citing Dieng's strong academic record. He began practicing with the team on Tuesday and is expected to play in an exhibition against Northern Kentucky on Sunday.

"I always had confidence and was optimistic that the NCAA would clear him to play," Pitino said. "It restores my faith in that if you do things the right way, things will work out. For the young man and for our program, it's a big boost."

Dieng averaged 15.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 7.2 blocked shots last season for Huntington Prep. He was ranked 44th nationally by Rivals.com. The Cardinals hope he'll flourish in the wide-open system Pitino plans to use this season.

"When you're running and pressing, having his length back there to alter and block shots is important," Pitino said. "He's a shot blocker, but is also is very skilled offensively. He's got to work himself into our system because he's missed a lot of practice."

Dieng's presence should take some of the pressure off junior center Terrence Jennings, who will replace Samardo Samuels after Samuels left school to head to the NBA following his sophomore season. Dieng's 7-foot-4 wingspan will give the Cardinals an interior defensive presence they've lacked in recent years.

"I can't wait to get in there and block some shots," Dieng said. "I always said I was going to come back. I always said it. I'm just going to focus on listening to coach and playing. That's what is most important for me: just listening to coach and playing."

The addition of Dieng, a 6-foot-10 big man from Senegal, turns the tide on what had been a rash of bad news for the Cardinals

Louisville's best recruit, Justin Coleman, did not qualify academically; Memphis' Roburt Sallie did not receive a transfer waiver; Jared Swopshire is sidelined with a hernia injury and freshman guard Russ Smith is out with an ankle injury; and Preston Knowles has been suspended for at least two games.

The Cardinals open the season at their new arena, the KFC Yum! Center on Nov. 16 against Butler Bulldogs.

Information from ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil, ESPN senior basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep and The Associated Press was used in this report.