The game of basketball hasn’t come easy to Babacar Pouye. As a young kid, he was never the best player or the most interested in the sport, but over the years, his skills ascended. This season, his development has transformed the boys’ basketball program at Cate School into a California Interscholastic Federation Championship contender.

Babacar Pouye | Credit: Aimee Stanchina

At 6′6″, Pouye boasts a rare blend of size and athleticism that makes him a nightmare for the opposition every time he steps on the court. On offense, he is able to establish position and outmaneuver near the rim or beat defenders down the court for one of his signature dunks. On defense, he effortlessly swats away shots as the ultimate rim protector and has the quickness to stay with smaller players on the perimeter.

“It has been incredible, because every single day and every single practice, he is like a sponge. He is just absorbing it all and getting better,” said Cate coach Andy Gil. “He is realizing that his footwork and his athleticism are the real deal. His basketball IQ is also improving exponentially, so I think he’s starting to understand what we are trying to do as a team and what he needs to do to get to that Division 1 college level.”

Cate is currently riding a 13-game winning streak, which includes an undefeated run through the Frontier League. The league championship was the first for the Rams since 2005, and now they are among the favorites in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A playoffs.

“Honestly, coming into the season, I wasn’t anticipating being a leader as much. I was kind of nervous, but I’ve settled into it,” Pouye said. “I’m always making sure to uplift my teammates because when I first started playing basketball, I was always the guy getting downplayed and stuff like that, so I know how it feels.”

Babacar’s father, Mamadou Pouye, teaches French at Cate. Their family is originally from Senegal, but they have lived on the Cate campus since Babacar was a small child. Babacar’s older brother Khadim Pouye was a great player for Cate two years ago, but at 6′1″, he lacked Babacar’s size. He now plays basketball at SBCC. Khadim was among those who encouraged Babacar to pursue basketball and recognized he had a chance to be special.

“I grew up here at Cate,” Pouye said. “It’s an amazing community with lots of great people. I’ve also been blessed because I have the gym here, and I am able to work out almost whenever I want.”

Playing club basketball this past summer ― where he battled against opponents who were bigger and more experienced than he was ― opened Pouye’s eyes to the possibility of playing major college basketball.

With the league championship on the line in the final game of the regular season against Villanova Prep, Pouye put together an incredible stat line as he finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 blocks to lead Cate to victory. 

“In my 11 years of coaching, I have not seen a more dominant performance in such a critical game than what junior captain Babacar Pouye did in today’s game,” said Gil of the transcendent performance.

Cate followed that up with a 60-12 victory over Beacon Hill in their playoff opener on February 11. It was a win that served as a statement to the rest of the playoff field that the Rams are a team to be reckoned with.

“I’ve been looking forward to that since I was a little kid and started playing basketball in 5th grade,” said Pouye of making highlight plays in front of his home crowd. “Seeing the crowd go crazy for my brother when he was on the team, I always wanted to do it myself. It’s a surreal feeling having all my friends and classmates out there.”

All eyes will be on Pouye as Cate takes on increasingly difficult competition as the playoffs continue.

“I‘ve been given a crazy opportunity by my parents coming to America and having the opportunity to go to college on a scholarship and play basketball,” Pouye said. “After playing club and developing my game, I really think I have the opportunity to do something with my talents.”

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