Keita Bates-Diop is an intriguing prospect in the 2014 class. He has a well-rounded game that has no major weaknesses except perhaps his need to gain strength. While he isn't a flashy take-charge player, he does a lot of good things on the court.
As a sophomore, he led his Normal University High School to second in the Class 2-A state championship, losing to Breeze Central 53-47 in the finale. For the season, he averaged around 14 points and five rebounds a game. He grabbed 9 boards in each of the semifinal and championship games at Peoria. He shot 47% from the field and 32% from the arc.
Bates-Diop is playing with the Illinois Wolves 16 and Under AAU team this spring, and he's displaying a noticeable increase in confidence.
"Helping my school to the state championship game helped my confidence. And I'm carrying it over to the AAU season."
Losing the championship game didn't detract from his outstanding high school season.
"I felt great about it. We got to the state title game. Even though we lost, it was a successful year."
While there will be missing pieces this next year, Bates-Diop expects good things for the 2012-13 season, and even better the year after.
"We're hoping to get back there next year. We lose four of our starters, but we think we'll be pretty good. My senior year will be really good."
Illinois coaches have heard about his development and appear to be making him a priority in their recruiting.
"The Illini coaches came to see me in an open gym. I talked to Coach (Jamall) Walker. That was the first time I talked to him. It was good to see him."
Bates-Diop admits the changeover from the Bruce Weber era to the John Groce era has taken an adjustment on his part. He has been a frequent visitor to Illini games the last couple years.
"It's a little different with the whole recruiting process, with different coaches at the school."
Still, he likes the attacking, pressuring style being installed by Groce at the UI.
"They haven't talked to me real in depth about their style of play. I know they like to get up and down. I'll probably talk to them more about it soon. It is a good style for my game."
Bates-Diop has grown since last summer. He is now the same height as his dad.
"I was 6'-6" last year, and now I'm 6'-7"."
His game has grown also.
"I have a more consistent jump shot, and I've definitely gotten stronger. I worked on my outside shot a lot last summer. I've also been working on my ball handling skills."
The Wolves have an outstanding team, one with multiple weapons. That is a good fit for Bates-Diop since he prefers an unselfish team game. He doesn't always get to show his full range of skills, and he admits he sometimes wishes he saw the ball more. But winning makes up for it.
"That's not how our team works. We move the ball to get open shots. Whoever gets open, we get him the ball."
Bates-Diop can fight inside as well as take the ball on the perimeter for jumpers. He is a quality passer and ball handler who can find the open man and lead a fast break. He also moves his feet well on the defensive end.
"I take pride in my defense. I consider it one of my talents."
Bates-Diop is the kind of player who makes teams better with his all-around game. The Illini have noticed.