The Playaz Basketball Club ran the table at arguably this summer's most prestigious event, the Peach Jam, and power forward Moustapha Diagne proved a key piece for the triumphant crew from New Jersey. Albeit not the team's brightest star — that would be Isaiah Briscoe — Diagne stepped up during the championship run.
He tallied 16 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks in the finale versus Team Penny. That performance punctuated a travel season that will lead him into his senior year prior to matriculating at Syracuse.
But he didn't hit the trail in 2014 as an unknown. Diagne emerged all the way back in 2012 and drew early scholarship offers from West Virginia, Oregon State, Cleveland State, Rider, LaSalle and George Mason.
He continued to play well in 2013 and progressed into the 2013-14 high school season as a prime target for major programs. He visited Syracuse for Orange Madness last fall and entered the 2014 travel season with offers from SU, Memphis, Cincinnati, Villanova and others.
He committed to Jim Boeheim's program in late May, citing a close relationship to Syracuse assistant Adrian Autry.
Diagne is solidly put together at 6-8, 240 pounds. He isn't quite college-ready in terms of physique but is close. Provided he can gain strength in his lower body over the next year, he'll be able to hold his own inside against older players even as a freshman at Syracuse.
He also possesses impressive hand-eye coordination and good touch on his facing jump shot. Diagne doesn't step out and hit threes but does convert with solid accuracy from 8-12 feet. There's room for him to grow in that regard, and he's already headed down the path.
|Consistent, rugged play define Diagne's game|
Meanwhile, he utilizes a nifty hook shot that enables him to scorer over taller, longer defenders. And he finishes at the rim impressively with his left hand, another tool that will work to his substantial long-term benefit.
That sums up his offensive game, but he's actually better as a rebounder and defender. Diagne averaged eight rebounds per contest in the EYBL regular season and stepped that up nearly a whole board per outing at the Peach Jam. Matched against some of the country's toughest competition, he gave the Playaz a needed interior component.
Otherwise on defense, his strength and timing should enable him to match up well with opponents in the post and also contribute as a shotblocker. I wouldn't expect six blocks to become the norm, of course, but he averaged nearly two blocks per contest 23 total EYBL games.
Diagne moves somewhat mechanically, and thus his post output can be more deliberate and difficult for him to make work when contested. He also isn't terribly explosive — he jumps pretty well with a running start but doesn't have a great straight-up leap — and may not be a great finisher at Syracuse for that reason.
His offensive game is milder overall than that of the elite big men in the class. He averaged nine points per game for the Playaz, though in fairness his 55 percent shooting demonstrates that he made the most of his opportunities. Keeping it simple and high percentage for the Orange likely will be his initial role there as well.
At a time when the traditional notions of basketball positions have drawn increased scrutiny, Diagne slots as a pure power forward. He'll never be a wing, isn't a stretch four and never will be a center. He's a tried and true big man who will complement a fellow frontcourt teammate very well.
Syracuse is the kind of elite program that may result in Diagne serving as an understudy to open his career. As long as he's patient, however, that process should prove highly beneficial. He'll get to learn under a Hall of Fame coach and against elite teammates.
Whenever he does find his way to court prominence, his steady, no-nonsense style should make him a reliable and consistent performer. Diagne has proved to be a big game player and, in tournament scenarios, has delivered exactly what his club has required in terms of scoring, rebounds and defense.
He should enjoy an outstanding career at Syracuse and ultimately move on to the professional ranks thereafter, wherever that may be.