Hawks rookie Mouhamed Gueye back in action with impressive G League debut

Atlanta Hawks rookie Mouhamed Gueye made his G League debut with the College Park Skyhawks after missing almost four months of basketball.

Atlanta Hawks Media Day
Atlanta Hawks Media Day / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Atlanta Hawks rookie Mouhamed Gueye may have gone with the No. 39 pick in the draft last summer, but he looked like a lottery pick in his first game of basketball since October.

The 21-year-old from Senegal put his 6-foot-11 frame and 7-foot-3 wingspan on full display in his debut with the College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G League affiliate. In only 16 minutes of action, Gueye posted 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block.

Gueye’s freakish athleticism and defensive versatility were hard to ignore as the rookie helped anchor College Park’s suffocating defense. In a Feb. 28 home win, the Skyhawks took down the Cleveland Charge 100-82 to move to 13-10 on the season. College Park now owns the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference G League standings.

Gueye suffered a stress fracture in his right lower back last November, which held him out of action for nearly four months. Needless to say, the young talent is excited to be playing competitive basketball again.

After his impressive night, Gueye spoke to Soaring Down South about the emotions of returning to the court after such a lengthy injury layoff.

"It felt great. It’s been a long time, been working hard … It feels amazing, I can’t wait to get more minutes."

Mouhamed Gueye on his return from injury

Gueye also added that his back “feels great” now. If he can stay healthy, the young big man should see his minutes begin to ramp up soon.

Trent Forrest showed well with Skyhawks

Hawks point guard Trent Forrest had himself quite the night with 15 points, seven assists, and six steals en route to a team-high plus-16 plus-minus. Having used up all of his two-way eligibility with Atlanta, Forrest had been called down to play for the Skyhawks.

After the game, Hawks writer Kevin Chouinard asked Forrest about his outlook on the rest of the season.

"Just taking advantage of every opportunity. I feel like I’m an NBA player, so I’m just continuing to try to showcase that in the best way … taking advantage of this opportunity."

Trent Forrest on playing in the G League

Little did Forrest know, he had played his last game of the season with College Park. Not even 24 hours later, the Hawks converted Forrest’s two-way deal to a standard NBA contract. The Hawks waived Patty Mills to make room for Forrest.

With recent injuries to Trae Young and Onyeka Okongwu, the Hawks may need the services of both Forrest and Gueye if the team endures more health setbacks.

AJ Griffin has seen some nice run with the Skyhawks

Meanwhile, AJ Griffin made his third straight G League appearance for College Park with a solid 13-point outing on 3-of-8 shooting from three. The second-year wing has endured a sophomore slump with Atlanta this season, averaging just 2.1 points on 28.9% shooting across 18 contests. Griffin’s playing time has plummeted from 19.5 minutes per game as a rookie to 7.3 minutes per game, and the emergence of forwards like Jalen Johnson and Saddiq Bey has not helped Griffin’s case for a larger role.

With the Skyhawks, Griffin has seen a predictable spike in opportunity and playing time. In 26.8 minutes a night, the 20-year-old has averaged 15.3 points on 45.5% shooting from distance. Considering he nailed 39.0% of his 3-pointers as a rookie, Griffin’s 3.3 threes per game with College Park shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

In his postgame press conference, Skyhawks head coach Ryan Schmidt addressed having NBA players like Griffin buy into the defensive culture College Park has built this season.

"AJ hasn’t been in the rotation there (in Atlanta) … He’s playing with us, taking on the challenge of trying to be the best possible defender he can be. On the offensive side, he can be a high-level scorer because of his ability to shoot. He’s got great size and physicality, and I think that’s showing now. Defensively, he’s been good."

Skyhawks head coach Ryan Schmidt

College Park has held opponents to a league-best 105.3 points per game with a top-five average point differential. The defensive juggernaut of the G League forced a season-high 24 turnovers against Cleveland with 15 total steals.

With the first test of their six-game homestand in the books, the Skyhawks will look to build on their 6-3 home record as they push for the G League Playoffs. The Skyhawks should continue to ease young prospects like Gueye and Griffin into their system as they prepare Atlanta’s less experienced pieces for the big leagues.