Moussa Cisse didn’t take basketball seriously until he was 14.
Now he is starting at Oklahoma State.
Cisse was born Conakry, Guinea, the capital of the African country, and moved to New York in 2015 when he was 14. The move initially was lonely, with his family thousands of miles away, but overall he enjoyed the move.
“I got the opportunity from my brother to come out here," Cisse said. "That was a pretty good experience."
In high school, Cisse attended three different schools, two in New York and one in Tennessee. His journey began at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey. Cisse then spent two years at Christ the King Regional High School in Queens, before transferring to Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tennessee.
It was at Lausanne where Cisse saw the biggest uptick in his basketball career.
He became a prolific shot-blocker, winning Tennessee Mr. Basketball. For a school that produced Marc Gasol, Cameron Payne and Skal Labissiere, Cisse still found a way to stick out to coach Marvis Davis.
“He’s an all around great kid. He’s a heck of a basketball player,” Davis said. “Moussa does things on the court that are just special. His timing on blocking shots, his rebound and being able to run the floor at 7-feet tall is just the best I’ve ever seen.”
The basketball talent had a delayed arrival for Cisse. When he arrived in the United States, he had only played soccer. Once he started working on his skills, and he had a growth spurt, Cisse’s basketball career began to take off.
“My first game was awful,” Cisse said. “I played my first game in the United States. When I was back home, I was just working out with my brother, I didn’t know how to play when I was starting.”
When Cisse’s game did take off, it was evident he had the talent to be great. He was tabbed as a five-star recruit in high school and decided to stay in Tennessee and play at the University of Memphis, 16 minutes away from Lausanne.
“Then I had an amazing season and I stayed in Memphis for my college. That wasn’t working out how I wanted and that’s why I transferred,” Cisse said.
After his freshman season, where he was named American Conference Freshman of the Year, Cisse left Memphis, but he also tested the NBA draft waters for a possible move to the pros.
During his journey, Cisse met individuals with knowledge about reaching the NBA, who informed him he would benefit from returning to college for another season. So he came to OSU.
“He left high school a year early. I think kind of in hopes to expedite the process of getting drafted. What we've talked about is, don't worry about skipping steps,” coach Mike Boynton said. “Like let's let the process play out, and I think that's some of the things he heard from the scouts and GMs that he worked out for and talked to.”
Cisse’s path to Stillwater was helped along with the help of former OSU point guard Cade Cunningham, who has a strong relationship with Cisse.
“That was very attractive, to be honest. Cade was texting me all the time, ‘Come to this school.’ We have a good relationship. That is my dog,” Cisse said. “He texted me during the draft process, telling me if the NBA doesn’t work out to look at (OSU). I take his word because I see what they did to him.”
Cisse’s ability to block shots and be a rim protector has been an immediate help to the Cowboys, but the shot blocking isn’t something that Cisse actively works on when he’s practicing, it just happens.
“When I get to the game I set a goal of 'I want to have this amount of blocks'. For me to chase that number, I enjoy doing that. Everytime I see someone go up, I’m trying to block it,” Cisse said. “God blessed me with athleticism so I’m going to use it every time I’m around the rim.”