"Coach Penny Hardaway is a legend and can help me develop my game and take it to the next level," Cisse told ESPN. "He has a lot of influence in the league. I've been in Memphis for a year now and everyone is telling me to stay. With all this stuff we're facing with the pandemic, I didn't get to go visit any other schools except Florida State. I'm getting a lot of love from the fans."
Cisse picked Memphis over scholarship offers from Kentucky, LSU, Florida State, Georgia and Georgetown. He was originally scheduled to commit in early June but decided to push back his decision out of respect to the Black Lives Matter movement.
"I was given a chance to come to this country to better my education," Cisse said. "As a person of color, I thought it would have been disrespectful to announce my college commitment while everything was going on. This also gave me more time to figure things out."
Cisse, who was born in the West African country of Guinea, moved to the United States in December 2016. He played at St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey and Christ the King High School in New York before electing to move to Memphis last summer to attend Lausanne Collegiate School. While at St. Benedict's, he played with Precious Achiuwa, who is now a projected lottery pick after one season at Memphis. According to Cisse, the Nigerian Achiuwa's endorsement was a major factor in his decision.
"Every time I talk to Precious he was always real with me," Cisse said. "He always says how good Penny is. How he trained him to make his game develop. That's why I decided to come to Memphis. Precious says the rest of the coaching staff is really good. Especially Cody Toppert. He's always sending me videos breaking down NBA big men."
Having grown up playing soccer for much of his life, Cisse's basketball skill level is still catching up to his physical ability, but he made major strides last season, averaging 18.4 points, 15.3 rebounds and 9.2 blocks per game while winning a state championship and being named Tennessee's Mr. Basketball DII-A.
Cisse is a candidate to be a one-and-done first-round draft pick. He is considered one of the best athletes in high school basketball and measured a shade under 7 feet with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and 9-foot-4 standing reach in February at the NBA's Basketball Without Borders Global Camp. He led the Nike EYBL in blocked shots last season at 4.5 per game and finished second in rebounding with 11.3 per contest.
"I am going to bring a lot of energy for sure," Cisse said. "I'm always going to play really hard. I've improved my game and can play both sides. It's going to be a good season for me and my teammates.
"I'm working hard and the ultimate goal is to get to the NBA. I want to get my education at the same time, but I am working on being one-and-done. Hard work and prayers, that's what we're counting on."