David N’Guessan (pronounced Guh-SAHN) traces back the days and realizes that he has been in Manhattan for exactly one week. Today, he got up some shots at 8 a.m., he hit the weight room one hour later, and he had an introductory meeting with a Kansas State on-campus advisor. Then he ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and then played open gym with his new K-State teammates. After this interview, the 6-foot-9, 205-pound power forward is going to hit the weight room again.
“This new group of guys, they’re super competitive just like me,” N’Guessan says. “It gets super intense, but I like it. It’s good. It’s great. It’s what makes you better.”
N’Guessan was born and raised in De Lier, The Netherlands, and grew up playing hoops. He hit a growth spurt — he went from 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-9 between ages 15 and 17 — that played a part in his decision to come to America to play high school basketball and potentially refine his talents at the collegiate level. He graduated from Mt. Zion Prep in Lanham, Maryland, as one of the top 40 power forwards in the nation. In March 2020, he chose to make Virginia Tech his initial college home over offers from St. Joseph’s, VCU and Washington State.
Today, N’Guessan wears a purple Nike Powercat t-shirt. Written in bold white lettering across the chest reads: “OUT THE MUD.” And he wears a smile. And he is holding out the Wildcat symbol with his right hand for the first time in his K-State career for a photo. But the smile, yeah, the smile traces back to March 2020 — when N’Guessan committed to Virginia Tech. Dani Jo Hearl, then 12 years old, posted a video on social media on March 19, 2020, to congratulate N’Guessan on joining the Hokies family:
“Hi David, my name is Dani Hearl. I just wanted to introduce myself today. I’m the biggest Virginia Tech Hokies basketball fan there is. Congratulations to your commitment to Virginia Tech. David, I’ll be your biggest fan. I’ll be at every game. I can’t wait to have your jersey hanging in my room. David, I colored a picture for you. I can’t wait to meet you in person and give it to you. Congratulations again for becoming a Hokie. I’ll talk to you soon. Go Hokies!”
Dani Jo was born on October 12, 2007, in Winston-Salem and was transferred to Brenner’s Children’s Hospital and diagnosed with Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome, which means she lives off a ventilator when she’s asleep. By age 4, she had undergone 10 surgeries and had been resuscitated 12 times. Later, she was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease and epilepsy. Today, she might have difficulty performing addition and subtraction in school, but she can name every ACC player currently on an NBA roster. She hangs jerseys of Virginia Tech players in her bedroom. She sits on the front row at Cassell Coliseum before games and stays an hour after each game to connect with players. That’s how she formally met N’Guessan.
N’Guessan paid special attention to her. He remembered her video in which she congratulated him on becoming a Hokie.
“It touched my heart right away,” he says. “It was very sweet and nice of her. She’s very special. She and her family were at pretty much every game supporting us. She’s definitely very special.”
As a freshman during the abbreviated 2020-21 season, N’Guessan scored 13 points at Wake Forest and 10 points at Syracuse while playing in 21 of 22 games. Last season, he came off the bench in all 36 games and showed flashes of potential as the Hokies’ top big man off the bench. He averaged 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds while averaging 13.4 minutes per contest. He had a career-high 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting against Maine and added 10 points and a career-high nine rebounds against Cornell. He played in all four ACC Tournament games and saw nearly 10 minutes of action against Texas in the NCAA Tournament.
“David was always a kid who, no matter the game’s outcome, he always walked back onto the court after the game,” says Joey Hearl, Dani Jo’s father and principal at Early College of Forsynth Country in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “He always made it a point to walk over and talk.
“David is a fine young man. He’s a good basketball player but a great person. K-State fans will find that out soon enough. When he plays, his motor never stops, and he goes 100 miles-per-hour, and he’s a guy the fans will really like. They’ll quickly fall in love with his style of play.”
N’Guessan entered the transfer portal right before the May 1 deadline. He says that “I’ll cherish my time at Virginia Tech the rest of my life.” His phone rang non-stop his first week on the market, as a bevy of Division I programs sought his talents. He visited K-State in late May. He issued his top eight possible selections (K-State, Maryland, Georgetown, St. Joseph’s, George Washington, UMass and Rhode Island) and returned to The Netherlands to spend time with his family and formulate his decision.
“Definitely the people and the relationships I have with the coaches set K-State apart, but also the people that I trust that have known the coaching staff for a long time was big, too,” N’Guessan says. “I didn’t hear anything but great things about them. The Big 12 is obviously a big-time conference. The fans and crowd and everything I heard about K-State was pretty great.
“I heard it gets very loud in here and it’s one of the best home court advantages in the country.”
K-State head coach Jerome Tang announced the addition of N’Guessan on June 2. Less than one week later, Dani Jo delivered a video message to the Wildcats:
I want to you about @DavidNGuessan1
He is a great player and a great person.
He gives the best and 🤗 after the game‼️
He is my friend and I ️ him. Please take good care of him for me.
️🧡 Dani Jo 🤍
PS: The N is silent in N’Guessan pic.twitter.com/RRJ0Qk4aA3
— Hearl Family (@HearlFamily) June 10, 2022
“This message is for Kansas State basketball. My name is Dani Jo. I want to tell you about David N’Guessan. David is a great guy. He’s one of my buddies. I’m going to miss him at Virginia Tech. You guys are going to love him at Kansas State. David can play multiple positions on the court, is a good rebounder and shot blocker, and if you leave him open, he’ll hit the 3-pointer on you. But the best thing about David is he’s a great person. He gives the best high-fives and hugs after a game. Hopefully, one day Kansas State will play Virginia Tech. David, thank you for being my friend. I love you and I’m going to miss you. I’ll talk to you later. Go Hokies and Go Wildcats!”
Less than 10 days later, Dani Jo posted a photo of her surrounded by various K-State t-shirts sent by the K-State men’s basketball program — along with a hand-written card from Tang that read:
“Dani Jo…We are very excited to have David & will take great care of him…I am also very excited to have you as a Wildcat fan!!! I hope you enjoy the gear & I look forward to having you visit Manhappiness someday soon!!! In His Court, Coach Tang”
Mail Day from @KStateMBB
Thank you for the Wildcat gear. Please know you will be well represented in Mount Airy, NC‼️
EMAW 🤍 pic.twitter.com/C07MUOIiVH
— Hearl Family (@HearlFamily) June 18, 2022
Dani Jo re-reads Tang’s note over the phone.
“Coach Tang is a nice guy,” she says. “David, we’ve been friends for three years. He’s a nice guy. I’m going to continue following him at Kansas State. I hope to see him soon.”
N’Guessan smiles while recalling how their special friendship all began.
“She showed me a drawing that she made,” he says. “She gave it to me after a game. The drawing made me feel proud and excited. Any time you can inspire someone else it’s just an amazing feeling. I still have that drawing.”
“I have to find a nice spot for it now.”
It’s near the top of his to-do list at his new college home.
Awesome Story I need to read more