Normal U-High sophomore Keita Bates-Diop has a quality all-around basketball game. He feels that is his strength.
"Exactly. I'm not great at any one thing, but I do a lot of things well."
The lone knock on the 6'-7" small forward is his slender build. He will need to gain strength and bulk to compete at a high major level in college, but he is doing something about it.
"I'm in a weight class at school, and I work out with weights on my own so I can get stronger. I've most definitely seen improvement."
Bates-Diop is not just an offensive player. He moves his feet and gives in to no one on the other end of the court.
"I take great pride in my defense. That's one of the main things they do at the college level."
He also plays with the Illinois Wolves AAU team. He was the tallest member of the 15U team last summer, forcing him to play inside more. That isn't the case with his high school team.
"We have bigger guys taller than me who play inside, so I'm able to play the wing position. I'm able to get more shots off and do more individual things. It's helped with my confidence level."
His team is winning games, and his own game is beginning to take off as well.
"It's going great. I'm scoring a lot of points, rebounding and helping my team out."
Normal U-High doesn't play the same level of competition as his AAU team, and this has proven valuable to Bates-Diop.
"Yeah, it helps me work out the kinks."
But he's also looking forward to next spring when he can rejoin the Wolves. They had an outstanding record last year.
"We'll be even better. We have everyone coming back, so it should be real good."
Besides Illinois, what schools have contacted him?
"Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern, DePaul, Oklahoma State, Missouri and a couple other schools that don't come to mind right now."
What is he looking for in a college?
"A school with good academics so after basketball I'll have something to fall back on. A program I'm comfortable with the players."
Bates-Diop, who admits he needs work on his shooting in addition to his strength, enjoyed watching Illinois defeat Ohio State last week. After all, he lives an hour away and has followed the Illini over the years. And he feels the style of play fits him.
He doesn't have a scholarship offer from the Illini yet, but that could be in his future. If so, it might be hard for him to decline.