So if last year Cheick Diallo was a rising contender, this year he's the reigning champion. Diallo earned plaudits from many as the top performer at the 2013 event, as he consistently dominated more highly touted opponents en route to a banner week on the national stage.
That event became the high point of his travel season, but he returned to the circuit this year having improved his game even further. Diallo was a terror in the spring, as he now supplements his interior rim-slaying with impressive post moves and at least hints of face-up scoring ability as well.
Diallo didn't imprint himself on day one as much as he did last year, but that bar always was going to be nearly impossible to clear. He certainly played very well in spots, the point being that while last year he relied on massive quantity, he now impresses even during quieter stretches due to more diverse quality.
What impresses me most about Diallo is his reaction time. He's sensationally quick to the ball with both his hands and his feet, and that attribute enables him to simultaneously retrieve the ball while squeezing through defenders to set himself up for an easy look. Much of his offense looks easy, because it is easy, and the magic happens before he ever goes up for the shot. You've heard about players having quick second leaps. Well, Diallo has a quick second leap, quick second slide step and quick reverse pivot. He can make a move, reset and make another move more quickly than just about anyone at the high school level.
He makes short jump hooks and doesn't look bad shooting from short-range, and even the 17-footer I saw him miss didn't look terrible. He's by no means a stretch four, but he's at least adding balance to his offensive functionality.
And Diallo continues to be an elite rebounder on both ends of the floor, along with capably blocking shots. He's a short 6-9 in height but has long arms and plays taller than that. In terms of intangibles, no one competes with more vigor, and Diallo never has displayed any sense of entitlement despite his status as a national top-five prospect.
From last year to this year and beyond, Diallo's linearity of eliteness appears to remain fully intact.