April 30, 2022 - by

Tanor Ngom: A Mother’s Son Graduates From Florida State

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Tanor Ngom’s journey has taken him from Senegal to France to Spain to Germany to Canada, and for the last two years to Tallahassee, where he enjoyed life as a student-athlete at Florida State University. 

On Saturday, he continues his journey as he makes the short, but incredibly important walk across the graduation stage to shake the hand of FSU president Richard McCullough as he officially becomes a college graduate. 

He’ll be the first in his family to graduate from college, earning his bachelor’s degree in Social Science. 

For Ngom, changing the culture within his family is a fact that is not lost on the imposing 7-2 post player. 

“I am the first of my family to graduate college and I have the bragging rights for life,” said Ngom.  “It’s going to be a special moment when I walk across that stage.  I am going to soak in every part of the atmosphere as if it were an NCAA Tournament game.”

Also not lost on Ngom, is that he will graduate in the same building – the Donald L. Tucker Center — where he performed his basketball magic for the Seminoles.  The graduation ceremony gives Ngom a home court advantage, you might say.

In two seasons at Florida State, Ngom played in 43 games as he helped the Seminoles continue to play as one of the top programs in the nation under Head Coach Leonard Hamilton.  He was an important reserve during Florida State’s run to the Sweet 16 of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, and was a starter for the Seminoles during the 2022 season. 

For Ngom, his journey of thousands of miles which got him to Florida State, comes down to one of the shortest walks of his life across the graduation stage in the Tucker Center. 

Ngom found the courage to take the first, and most important step, on his journey from one person. 

A person he hasn’t seen in nearly two years. 

His mom. 

“She’s the reason I wake up in the morning,” said Ngom.  “She’s my motivation to keep going.”

Tanor Ngom: A Mother’s Son Graduates From Florida State

The most difficult part of his journey has been being away from his mom.  Growing up, she was (and still is) the backbone of their family. 

Ngom recalls his mom working hard to provide for the family, even selling ice on the streets of Senegal in order for the family to eat each day.   

“I did not know I was poor as a kid,” said Ngom. “My mom would go hungry, and I didn’t know. She managed everything and did the most for me.”

Ngom is the fourth oldest of six brothers and sisters and began playing basketball at age 14.  By age 15 he had moved to Germany where he began to understand he had a future playing the game.

From there, he became a student-athlete at Ryerson University in Toronto.  He starred at Ryerson for three seasons.  In 60 career games at Ryerson, Ngom averaged 10.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 61 percent from the field.  He helped the Rams to a 55-15 record during his career there.

During the summer of 2020, Florida State’s Hamilton called with an offer to further his basketball career and the opportunity to earn a degree from one of the top schools in the United States. 

The most important goal Hamilton sets for his student-athletes is that they are expected to earn their degree.  Having just completed his 20th season as the winningest coach at Florida State basketball history, Hamilton sees to it that his players leave campus with incredible basketball memories and one thing that can never be taken from them – their degrees.  Since the start of the 2003 season, an incredible total of 72 of 74 players (97.3 percent) who have played through their senior seasons under Hamilton have earned their degrees.

Ngom jumped at the chance, endured a mountain of COVID restrictions that existed between Canada and the United States during the pandemic, and made it to Tallahassee just before the fall semester began. 

“I knew Florida State was home,” said Ngom.  “But after all the restrictions were lifted and Coach Ham told me I would be able to play was an unreal feeling.  “I remember he told us at the end of practice, and my teammates began jumping all around me.  We started dancing, and I knew then that my teammates were my brothers for life.”

The easiest part of his transition for the affable Ngom was fitting in with his teammates and assimilating into the culture of the Seminole program. 

Tanor Ngom: A Mother’s Son Graduates From Florida State

He quickly found he had much in common with his new teammates, including the ability to speak French with team captain Anthony Polite. 

“Tanor is a great guy who has a lot of goals and ambitions,” said Polite.  “I learned a lot from him; he’s a very genuine guy who only wanted the best for the team.  He worked extremely hard to make the team better, improve his own skills and be a great person on and off of the court.” 

Ngom and Polite spent much of the last two season’s communicating in French, both on and off of the court. 

Polite’s sentiments are echoed by Florida State Associate Head Coach Stan Jones. 

“Tanor is a young man that’s got a big, big heart,” said Jones.  “He’s got an attitude of gratitude.  He’s very appreciative for every opportunity he gets, for every chance to get his education and to work on his basketball game.  He’s a joy to be around.”

Ngom, whose combination of speed and agility sets him apart from other post players, is looking forward to beginning a professional basketball career. 

“Graduating from Florida State means the world to me,” said Ngom.  “I know I’ll be a great basketball player in the future.  I’ll be able to show my kids my achievements as an athlete.  But being able to show them that piece of paper is going to be even more special.”

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