When Illinois State junior MiKyle McIntosh tore his meniscus back on Jan. 21’s game against Drake, a challenge arose to his teammates to step up in his place.

Sophomore Daouda, “David,” Ndiaye took the challenge personally. In six games since the injury, he has stepped up to keep the Redbirds in first place of the Missouri Valley Conference.

“It’s just — everybody has to step up,” Ndiaye said. “But I took it personally and I felt like I had to bring a lot.”

In ISU’s latest game, a 64-50 win over Bradley Saturday, the 7-foot Senegalese had nine points, a career-high nine rebounds and five blocks. In a contest during which the Redbirds played zone defense nearly the entire time, Ndiaye protected the rim and helped his teammates hold the Braves to only 15 points in the first half.

“I think the reason is I am having more of a feel of the game,” Ndiaye said. “This is a big piece for me going forward, for my team, and for everybody.”

The matchup also showed how much more of an opportunity he has been given to excel. He played for 27 minutes against BU, which was another career-high for him. It was also the third consecutive game he got to be on the floor for 20-plus minutes.

“It’s always fun to play,” Nidaye said. “And with MiKyle being hurt, we need everybody to step up. And I just got to do a good job.”

Since McIntosh’s injury, some of Ndiaye’s standout performances included a career-high six blocks on Jan. 29 against Evansville and on Feb. 4 at Wichita State where he grabbed eight rebounds. ISU went 5-1 in that span, but Ndiaye could have missed that stretch if his past injuries reappeared.

Until about halfway through this season, Ndiaye had few chances to show his improvement. Stress fractures in both of his feet forced him to miss multiple games over his last two seasons in Normal, including the first nine this year.

“Having been injured really held me down a lot,” Ndiaye said. “But moving forward, hopefully I will be injury-free and we’ll see what the future holds.”

As he seems to have rid the injury bug, his commitment to improvement looks to have paid off. And ISU coach Dan Muller has seen it.

“He’s really committed,” Muller said. “About two weeks ago, he committed to a couple of things he needed to do to kind of take that next step as a player mentally, and he’s been really consistent.”

While McIntosh is anticipated to return to the lineup on Feb. 22 against Southern Illinois, Ndiaye’s relevance has improved greatly in the past month; we can still expect his role with the team to remain large. And with two years of eligibility left for him, who knows how much higher it can get.

NICK LANDI is a sports writer and blogger for The Videte. He can be reached by email vidette_nlandi@exchange.ilstu.edu and found on Twitter @TheDon1033

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