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Ismael Sanogo: ‘Not that big of a difference between the two teams’

Chris Milholen spoke with Ismael Sanogo, the only returning player from last year’s Long Island Nets team, to discuss the differences between last year’s G League Eastern Conference Championship team to this year’s squad and his role with the fairly young roster. 

Long Island Nets v Erie Bayhawks Photo by Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images

Ismael Sanogo holds a special value that no other player on the Long Island Nets roster contains.

Aside from Dzanan Musa and Theo Pinson, who are Nets assignees spending a few games here and there, he is the only returning player from last year’s G League title run.

Sanogo does not see much a difference between last year’s squad and the current squad, who is fighting for a playoff spot with only 12 games remaining.

“Of course our record is not where we want it to be but we are still in the fight to be in the playoffs,” Sanogo said. “Obviously, the only difference between this year’s team and last year’s team is how we started the season. Last years team started the season much better while this years team, we started off shaky.”

When asked about if he sees any similarities, the 6’8” forward emphasized the will and fight of the players.

“The similarities between these two teams are how hard we both played and how hard we fight. Not that big of a difference between the two.”

Sanogo did not start the season with this year’s Long Island squad, but after waiving Angel Nunez and Jahmal McMurray, Long Island brought back Sanogo along with former Villanova Wildcat Joe Cremo.

Before Sanogo got the call to return to Uniondale, he was looking into other basketball opportunities. His agent, Tyler Glass, suggested that Sanogo could try a new adventure, a new opportunity with the Basketball Africa League, a new professional league organized by the NBA and FIBA. The league will feature 12 teams across Africa and is scheduled to play its inaugural season this month.

Sanogo, an Ivory Coast native, saw the new basketball opportunity as “something new and historic.” He attended the two-day BAL Combine held at the HSS Training Center shortly before the former Seton Hall Pirate returned to Uniondale. He participated in the combine.

“It seemed like a great opportunity to not only play in front of some scouts but be a part of something new and historic,” said Sanogo, who was born in the Ivory Coast and carries a passport from that African nation.

It is likely Sanogo’s play in the two-day combine led Long Island into bringing back the 24 year-old.

Now in Uniondale providing a sharpshooting boost off the bench, Sanogo holds a veteran role with the current team. With most of the current roster being rookies, he helps the rookies adjust to life in the G League, whether it’s on or off the court.

“Yeah for sure,” Sanogo said. “Just teaching them and telling people the defensive concepts that they are doing. Telling the rookies and teaching them the G League life how there is going to be ups and downs. Some of the young guys come and talk to me and I give them my best opinion.”

When asked about personal goals for the remainder of the season, he wants to continue to grow his game. In addition, he wants to support his teammates the best he can.

“For the rest of the season, I just want to keep getting better as much as I can,” Sanogo said. “Keep being able to support my teammates the best I can. Whether it’s on the court or on the bench it doesn’t matter.”

This season, Sanogo is averaging 17.7 minutes, 5.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 23 games off the bench.

Sanogo, who is well-known for his college play at Seton Hall, is confident about which team will bring home the NCAA Tournament trophy this season. He believes it’s his Pirates will win their first title.

“National Championship. We are winning it. Quote me on that.”