Senegalese Big Has Interest in Bears
Idrissa Diallo only moved to the United States from Senegal less than two years ago, but, his coach says, his English is flawless.
"Oh, he's very good, very good," says Los Angeles Cathedral head coach Will Middlebrook. "He applied to my previous school, and we have a lot of international kids that come to us, just because I think people know about our program, and I don't even have a passport. I've never left the country, but I've coached kids from Cameroon, Brazil -- all over the world -- Tahiti -- just tons of different places -- France. But, that's just what's organically happened."
While what California -- which has taken quite a shine to the 6-foot-10, 220-pounder since offering in the fall -- has done during the home stretch has been a boon to recruiting on the home front, for Diallo, it's still a bit foreign.
"College ball means something to them once they're here because they want to go for an education, but in terms of understanding rivalries and conferences and stuff like that, you'll find that most of the international kids, they've got no idea what's going on with that," Middlebrook said. "They don't know the difference between the Big 10 and the Pac-12 and all that. They understand the NBA, because that's what's seen in their countries, but generally speaking, they don't watch a lot of college basketball."
Middlebrook was formerly with Ribet Academy, and was the basketball coordinator for the Harbor League, which includes Price -- the alma mater of current Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate Allen Crabbe. While other prospects are watching the Bears' run of success with great interest, Diallo only knows that Crabbe is doing well.
"He's definitely interested in Cal, with Cal where it is right now, but I don't think he pays much attention," Middlebrook said. "For him and for me, everything's about relationships. We've got good relationships with coach [Montgomery] and with Gottlieb."
On an unofficial trip to Berkeley last summer, Diallo got a chance to sit down with Crabbe, and the two bonded a bit, due to the fact that Middlebrook not only knew Crabbe from across the court, but also because he's part of the Compton Magic AAU program, where Crabbe played during his prep career.
"I'm very close with coach [Mike] Lynch at Price, and that whole group," Middlebrook said. "I trust that they'll do right by him. Obviously Allen Crabbe will impact a lot of that, because we have a relationship with him. That's kind of how he knows about the program, through the existing kids that are there."
Diallo came to the United States proficient in English, but he also speaks six other languages, so the academic aspect of Cal -- not to mention the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the campus -- could play a bigger part in his recruitment than the Bears' current charge towards a possible regular-season Pac-12 title.
"He's very intelligent, high GPA, and that's why Cal or Stanford would be a good fit for him, because he's an academic kid," Middlebrook said. "He just happens to be tall and play a little basketball. His focus is on his academics and that kind of thing."
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