In the case of this Senegalese, its very easy to identify his virtues, the reason why he might draw some attention: Samb enjoys an impressive combination of size and athleticism that is hard for any player to match. Hes a legit seven footer, perhaps 7-1 in shoes, who enjoys a great wingspan. Cheick displays an excellent vertical leap and good speed on the floor.
On the defensive end is where he shows his best potential, being a very promising shot-blocker. Its not only a matter of how high Samb gets, but also in the timing he shows looking for the block. He feels more comfortable operating in motion, on defensive help coming from the weak side, rather than blocking his own matchup (even if he produces here as well). He shows excellent lateral mobility that only needs some work to translate it into more effective defensive movement. Rebounding is another area where his physical and athletic gifts help him produce.
When it comes to his offensive skills, its surprising to check that his most reliable weapon is his free-throw shooting ability. Its not common to see a big man that is this skilled in this department (not being a Reggie Miller, but still good enough to shoot a 70% clip), much less in such a raw player as him. His mechanics are pretty decent, and its a smooth release that helps the ball go in if it touches the rim before. Of course, he uses that shooting touch with the clock moving, even by daring to shoot from three-point range once in a long while, although he significantly losses accuracy. He also shows a decently soft touch around the basket and above average hands when it comes to grabbing the ball.
Despite his extreme rawness, hes a player who seems to understand the game well enough, usually showing criteria operating with the ball. Besides, hes not a passive guy at all concerning what happens on court. He actively talks with his teammates and looks quite motivated.
Everything about Samb screams raw. Hes so far away from becoming a productive player at a high level that you have to wonder if hell ever get there. He started to play basketball extremely late, and its easy to see the consequences.
Cheick is not any type of offensive threat. Facing the basket, he needs to gain consistency with his mid-range shot, and he barely can put the ball on the floor. But there arent any significant post skills to speak of either. His footwork looks extremely unpolished, his footspeed very poor and he doesnt stand out finishing around the basket. His semi-hook shot needs serious work, lacking arc in its flight and looking poor in its mechanics. On the defensive end, he needs to get smarter, as hes easily cheated with shot fakes that he answers going for the block
It wouldnt be so concerning if his flaws finished there. Other players have managed to crack some NBA rosters with a similar drought of skills, but at least they had the body to earn a living on the court. Cheicks problems grow exponentially since hes so skinny, getting regularly outmuscled in everything he does. He lacks the necessary lower body strength to hold his position, whether in the low post (on both ends of the court) or boxing out and battling in rebounding situations. His upper body is in tune with his legs, and neither his frame allows us to think that he can dramatically improve his general bulk and strength in the future. Having started playing basketball so late with his background being from Africa surely hasnt helped him. On the other hand, despite his athleticism, hes not really explosive, lacking some reactivity and quickness in some situations, although this area seems easier to sort out.
Cheick Samb was brought to Spain in late 2003 from Senegal along with his younger brother Mamadou by the president of Arona, a team in the Canary Islands. Well into the 2004/05 season, both brothers signed with FC Barcelona.
This past season, Cheick played in Cornellá. This is a team linked with FC Barcelona that receives on loan some of its most promising kids to give them playing time in an interesting stage such as LEB-2, which is the third division in Spain, but that enjoys a good level for youngsters to get experience. There, Samb has averaged 9.4 points (51% FG), 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 25 minutes per game.
He also played with Winterthur F.C.Barcelona on the Under-22 Circuit, a peculiar competition organized by the ACB League and the Spanish Basketball Federation that features the best youngsters in Spain (not necessarily Spanish), where he averaged 9.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in 22 minutes per game.
As a 1984-born player, Cheick is automatically eligible for the 2006 draft. He only has a marginal shot to make the second round. He will likely take part in the Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso in order to try and improve his stock.
The NBA has bet on super-raw physically-freakish international players such as Cheick Samb in the past, but they were usually younger, as the likes of Nedzad Sinanovic or Remon Van de Hare, and the results obtained havent been encouraging so far. Its certainly a long shot that Samb becomes a productive player at a top level, but its equally undeniable that he enjoys some gifts that simply cant be taught.
His younger brother, Mamadou Samb, is one of the most promising international prospects born in 1989.
Cheick won the dunk contest of the 2006 Vilagarcía Basket Cup, a youth tournament played every Easter in Spain, showcasing his impressive athleticism.