Tom Dumont and Mouhamed Ndiaye leaned on each other’s shared language to succeed
By Gavin Axelrod
Illustration by Therese SevillaA
roaring thunder fills the Mattamy Athletic Centre as first-year guard Tom Dumont dunks the ball with authority over a McMaster defender. Dumont dunking on opponents has become a regular occurrence, often coupled with a silky-smooth three-point shot.
As a first-year starter, it’s easy to forget that less than 10 months ago Dumont moved from France to Canada in order to pursue both his hoop dreams and an education. Especially when he’s effortlessly levitating towards the rim for clutch plays.
“In France or Europe, after [you turn] 18 years old, if you want to play at a high level you have to go pro,” said Dumont. “If you go pro, it’s pretty tough to keep studying. That’s why I came here, I can study and play basketball at the same time.”
While he speaks the language of basketball to a tee, he’s now working to enhance his English language skills.
“I wish I was fluent,” said Dumont. “Sometimes I feel kind of stupid when I’m talking. I’ve definitely improved, but it’s still hard.”
Dumont credits his French-speaking teammates Mouhamed Ndiaye and Tanor Ngom with helping him get comfortable in Canada.
“It feels nice to speak French with someone,” said Dumont. “Sometimes I feel kind of lonely with my language.”
However, he isn’t alone in going through an adjustment period.
Living away from home for any reason is never easy. But some aspirations are too big to be held to the confines of what’s familiar. Both Dumont and Ndiaye understand that with big dreams, come big sacrifices.
Ndiaye moved from Senegal to Longueuil, Que., at 12 years old, attending school there until 2015. But he had to grow up quickly, playing basketball and living two and a half hours away from home at Thetford Academy in Thetford Mines, Que.
While living on his own is nothing new, Ndiaye will always remember the initial unease of starting at Thetford Academy. “At first it was a shock, I wasn’t used to [being by myself],” said Ndiaye. “I was younger, I had to cook for myself and do some grown man stuff.”
Ndiaye is grateful for his experience living away from home at a young age, which is why moving to Toronto this fall was less of a shock.
Much like Dumont, he also had to get used to the language, as he only spoke French when he lived in Quebec. “It wasn’t easy, to be honest,” said Ndiaye. “My English wasn’t that bad, but now every day I have to speak English, everything is in English and I had to adjust to that too.”
The two first-year standouts were able to lean on each other throughout the year. Ndiaye remembers the first day he came to Ryerson and met Dumont.
“I was so happy I was like, ‘Yes! I’m not the only one,’” said Ndiaye.
But while he’s found his footing in Toronto, it’s hard for Ndiaye not to reminisce about his family back home. He has eight siblings and is the youngest at 21 years old. There are enough members of his immediate family to play a full five-on-five basketball game.
Growing up around older siblings has helped him mature—in fact, it’s something he takes pride in. Ndiaye compares his relationship with his siblings to the relationships he’s formed with his teammates.
“I’m used to being surrounded by older people,” said Ndiaye. “This year I felt like guys took me under their wings, like [Tanor Ngom] and [Keevon Small]. I had the same feeling with my brothers, it was pretty special.”
However, the busy schedule makes it hard to visit home.
“It’s been a lot of years that I’ve been living away from home, when I was in Quebec it was easier,” said Ndiaye. “Now it’s harder because if I don’t have a [long] break I can’t go [home].”
But, in talking to his parents every day, his mother always reminds him to work hard and stay confident. Ndiaye adds that his father will often send him encouraging messages on game days.
umont and Ndiaye have many similarities both on and off the court. They are both the youngest of their siblings and have spent a lot of time away from home at basketball schools.
When he was younger, Dumont used to play basketball with his older brothers. He humbly admits to losing his fair share of games.
The six-hour time difference between Toronto and France makes it hard for Dumont to reach out to his family. However, he still finds time to talk to them throughout the week.
“I try to call them once or twice a week, and then sometimes we text,” said Dumont. “I know they’re watching my games [online] and supporting me.”
For someone that moved across the ocean at such a young age, Dumont is taking things in stride. If he’s homesick at all, it certainly doesn’t show in his playing abilities.
“To be honest I just [miss] my parents and friends…I don’t really miss France.”
As the year has progressed, Dumont has become more comfortable with the language. But like many, he still doesn’t have a hold on Toronto slang.
“It was definitely harder when I first got here,” said Dumont. “Two guys on my team speak French so I was [able] to ask them questions, especially about slang.”
“I need to take some [slang] classes,” he jokes. Luckily, he’s still got plenty of time.