Khaly Amadou Thiam: a gem from Senegal

Khaly Amadou Thiam: a gem from Senegal


Senegalese Khaly Amadou Thiam landed in Montreal a little over a year ago. Like a gift from heaven for Collège Ahuntsic. 

The 20-year-old athlete dominates in Quebec, in the first division of the Collegiate Basketball League, so much so that he arouses a lot of interest from various universities, across Canada, but also in the United States.

The path leading Thiam to the Collège Ahuntsic team is unusual, as the former soccer player, who measures 6 ft. 6 in., had never played in an organized basketball league when he was recruited by the Montreal establishment. 

“ Football (Editor’s note soccer) was my whole life, but I suffered a knee injury and little by little, during my rehabilitation, I discovered basketball, said the athlete. I was watching NBA games on TV and I found a real passion. I had to train really hard to get good at football, while in basketball, without wanting to brag, I found a certain ease there. 

A scenario film

Moved in December 2021 to Montreal, where his father already lived, the young man from the religious town of Tivaouane, near Dakar, therefore participated in the Summer League of the community organization “PACT de rue”, last August. Match referee Pierre Lumène, also an assistant coach with the Ahuntsic College Eagles, then sensed Thiam's immense natural talent.

“ I immediately spoke to the head coach Watson Henry to come and see this player,” enthuses Lumène again.

“It has completely changed our team, Henry continued. He's the best player in the league, in my opinion. He works hard and is a kid who learns quickly. If we told someone that this player had never played in an organized league before, they wouldn't believe us.”

The arrival of Thiam has indeed changed the portrait of the Ahuntsic College formation, which presents a record of 14-5 this season. Undeniable proof of the usefulness of the Senegalese, the Eagles have lost their last three games in the absence of Thiam, victim of a bad knee injury. The African should however be able to return to the game before the end of February, when the playoffs will begin.

Vanier at the top

A powerhouse on the college circuit, the Vanier College Cheetahs (17-2) remain at the top. However, it was Thiam and his teammates who managed to inflict Vanier their first defeat of the campaign, in November, while Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf (16-3) managed to snatch the other gain, the February 3.

“At the start of the season, we wanted to finish in the top six in the standings, but the more the season progresses, the more the objective of winning is present”, noted Henry, before the injury of his protege.

Of course, Thiam's absence changed the plans. However, Ahuntsic College still believes in the possibility of winning a first Quebec championship in the best division since 2011-2012.

“We want to go as far as possible, but we must not go there. step by step,” admitted Thiam.

Dreaming in the NBA

On a personal note, Thiam is eager to continue his progression, so much so that he finds himself dreaming of one day reaching the NBA. 

“I'm there dream more than ever,” he noted.

Already dominant defensively, especially under the basket, with 182 rebounds in 16 games, the Senegalese hopes to refine his attacking game. If Thiam grew up following the exploits of soccer player Sadio Mané rather than basketball player Gorgui Dieng, his dream of reaching the NBA might not be so crazy.

Let's also remember that there is a player who reached the highest level, not so long ago, after playing on the college scene in Quebec. Karim Mané, a Quebecer of Senegalese origin, had thus worn the colors of Vanier, from 2017 to 2020, before participating in ten games with the Orlando Magic during the 2020-2021 season.

Frenchman Brice-Philippe Fandio, of Cégep de Sherbrooke, sits first in the Collegiate League statistics with an average of 18.3 points per game.