Q-and-A with Gairges Daow


Freshman forward Gairges Daow drives to the lane in the Huskies’ 61-55 home win Saturday against Central Connecticut State. Daow made his first start of the season. 

By Khobi Price

DeKALB — After leading his high school team at Victory Rock Academy to a National Championship with a 27-8 record this past season, freshman forward Gairges Daow is one of six freshmen who joined the men’s basketball team for the 2017-18 season.

He’s averaging 18.5 minutes, 3.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, numbers that lead all freshmen on the team. He’s the only first-year player to start a game for the Huskies this season.

Daow’s effort on the court in his freshman season hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates, including junior forward Levi Bradley.

“[Gairges] gives you all he’s got,” Bradley said. “Every time he’s on the floor, he’s talking and trying to keep us together.”

Daow played a season-high 31 minutes in his start Saturday against Central Connecticut State University, contributing four points, two assists and one steal.

“I like the direction [Gairges] is headed,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “He’s going to be a good player here.”

Despite the slow start to the season, Daow remains confident in the team and expects this season to be a successful one.

Q: You were born in South Sudan, grew up in Melbourne, Australia and went to high school in Florida. How does it feel to live in different areas and be exposed to different cultures?

A: It’s a challenge at first. I didn’t know the English language, so I had to adapt. It’s different because other people are speaking English and you can’t speak it, so it’s like you’re kind of in your own world. I had to learn English so I could make new friends and get to know other people on and off the floor.

Q: Why did you choose to continue your academic and athletic career at NIU?

A: When I came here to visit NIU, I felt welcomed. I felt like this was a place I could call home and a place I could be for the next four years. [It felt like a place] I could continue my education and basketball career.

Q: From the team perspective, what do you think of the season so far?

A: We’re starting off slow. We’re a young team. We’re going through a little hurdle, but we’re going to figure it out. We just have to keep working at it.

Q: What’s been the biggest difference for you in terms of getting acclimated to playing basketball at the college level?

A: The speed of the game is a big thing because it’s different from high school. It’s a lot faster, and guys know what they’re doing out here. You have to stay on top of your things and be ready when your name is called.

Q: If you could choose one NBA player to compare your game to, who would it be and why?

A: Damian Lillard [because] he’s a two-way player. He plays defense and offense.

Q: You’ve received the most playing time out of all the freshme. How and why do you think you’ve earned this trust with Coach Montgomery so early in the season?

A: It starts on the defensive end for me. I like to play defense a lot. I love talking and love for the guys to get engaged. When I talk, it sparks my energy to the next guy, and it gets the team going.

Q: What kind of role has Coach Montgomery set for you?

A: Just come in and be the glue guy on the floor. Make sure that everyone is in the right place and come in with energy off the bench.

Q: What are your expectations for yourself and the team?

A: [We] don’t want to lose at home, [and] we expect to win the MAC championship.

Q: What’s your favorite basketball memory?

A: [My favorite memory basketball memory is] winning the national championship with my high school team, Victory Rock Academy. Nobody thought we could win it that year. We came out, did what we had to do, and we won it.

The Huskies will return to action 6 p.m. Dec. 18 in Milwaukee against the Marquette University Golden Eagles.