By Stefan Djordjevic/ email@example.com
Although Avtodor Saratov hasn’t had the best season in the VTB United League (12th with a 5-12 record, 2 wins behind the teams in the playoff zone), their big man Mouhammadou Jaiteh’s ‘hands are clean’.
The 25-year-old French has been averaging almost a double-double and is doing much more than just that for his squad. With a stat-line of 13.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.9 blocks, and 0.9 steals, there’s not much more one could ask from him.
Add to that 66.4% from the field, mobility and a defensive presence with a 7-4 wingspan, and you’ve got a full package.
Jaiteh has been making a difference for Avtodor but what path did he take to get there? And could it have been different with a couple of alternate choices?
Starting out and choosing France over the US
Basketball wasn’t the first sport Jaiteh tried out. He started with soccer following his friends but switched his focus to basketball at the age of 13.
He quickly got recognized as a prospect and it wasn’t long before he joined the French national team’s younger selections.
Jaiteh was the leading rebounder in the 2012 U18 European Championship and put on impressive numbers for INSEP at the ANGT (Addidas Next Generation Tournament) in Belgrade, averaging 14 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.6 blocks.
That stretch was more than enough to earn him some scholarships in the US (Connecticut Huskies, Washington Huskies, Gonzaga Bulldogs, Virginia Tech Hokies) but the French prospect decided to stay in France and sign a two-year deal with SOMB. And it seemed to have been the right call.
Who knows what it would have been like if Jaiteh chose to go the US but he without a doubt used his chance at SOMB to the fullest. He was putting on 16.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in the French Second Divison winning both the French Player MVP and the Most Improved Player awards.
Jaiteh was developing fast and it was perhaps the perfect time to enter the NBA Draft. The one in 2013. And Jaiteh was up for it. He participated in the Nike Hoop Summit and worked out for six teams, however, he didn’t want to enter the draft without first-round guarantees.
He wanted to be drafted into a flourishing situation for both himself and the team, and although he received some guarantees, it wasn’t what Jaiteh was looking for. So, he withdrew from the draft and returned to France where he signed with Nanterre 92 to the much-needed experience and continue his growth.
Experiencing the highest European levels
Jaiteh ended up spending three seasons with Nanterre and throughout them, made his debuts in the French First Division as well as EuroLeague, EuroCup, and EuroChallenge.
He entered the French League All-Star two more times for three overall and added a EuroChallenge trophy to his accomplishments in 2015. The same year, he was a part of the senior French national team that won a EuroBasket bronze.
His numbers and playing time with Nanterre increased gradually and reached 12.7 points, 7.7 boards, and one assist in his third season with the team.
During that three-year stretch with the club, Jaiteh decided against the NBA Draft once again in 2014 and eventually went undrafted in 2015 as an early entrant.
Jaiteh joined SIG Strasbourg the following season (2016-17) with which he made his debut in another European competition – the Basketball Champions League.
Moving on from France
After Strasbourg, the French big spent one more year in his native country playing for CSP Limoges, and although he started the next season with the team, Jateh ended up moving to Italy and FIAT Torino.
In between, Jaiteh got a chance at the NBA Summer League, stepping on the floor for the Philadelphia 76ers in two games. He did get some attention but, in the end, not much came out of it and the French prospect returned to playing Europe.
Maybe Italy was exactly what Jaiteh needed, or to be more precise, a change of scenery and a different style of basketball, new experiences. He certainly helped out Torino with 11 points and seven boards in 20 minutes on average.
After a decade of playing basketball in France, Jaiteh moved to two countries in two years. After Italy, it was time for Russia, Avtodor Saratov and the VTB United League.
Mouhammadou Jaiteh has a lot of experience under his belt so far, but keep in mind that he is only 25 years old and there’s still a way to go until he reaches his ceiling.
Maybe his chances to get to the NBA passed by him with all those drafts, however, Jaiteh still has something to prove and he is showcasing that with Avtodor in the VTB League.
Photo Credit: VTB United League