Last fall, Mamadi Diakite served notice that he belonged in the upper echelon of 2016 prospects. The slender big man had gained height and explosiveness since the previous spring, and many viewed him as a potential breakout prospect during the 2014-15 season.
But team success took priority, and Diakite sacrificed his individual exploits in the name of helping lead his Dyke (Va.) Blue Ridge to a state championship.
”I didn’t always play to my strengths,” Diakite said. “I wanted to win a championship and we did that.”
Now that spring has arrived, however, the priorities have shifted. Diakite played like a man with something to prove at the VA Top 80 on Sunday, dunking all over the place and blocking shots in eye-catching fashion. He still must gain strength and polish his skills, but his size and athleticism alone justify high-major interest.
Not that he lacks for attention. Diakite’s parents have arrived from his native Guinea, and he and his family intend to make four campus visits in April.
It’s no surprise that prestigious academic institutions dominate his list. Both of Diakite’s parents are doctors who have worked on the Ebola crisis in Guinea, and thus one would expect a school’s curricula to draw close scrutiny.
Meanwhile, it stands to reason that the Cavaliers and Hoyas may enjoy a familiarity advantage due to the fact that Diakite attends school in Virginia. More to the point, he has developed a bond with fellow junior big man Sacha Killeya-Jones, an early pledge to Tony Bennett’s program.
”He’s like a brother to me,” Diakite said. “Virginia is a school I really like and we’re discussing (the idea of playing together) a lot.”
First things first, however, he’ll take his officials and suit up for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit. He’ll certainly get his exposure there, and don’t be surprised if Diakite further enhances his reputation during the April live period.