Pitino and the Cardinals had a couple of disappointing setbacks on the recruiting front last week, losing five-star point guard Marquis Teague to Kentucky, while parting ways with five-star 2011 center commitment Michael Chandler. What once appeared a blockbuster-type class in the making, definitely took a hit last week.
That's why Dieng's decision for the Cardinals was so important for Pitino, re-establishing positive momentum on the recruiting trail.
Dieng, a native of Senegal, has only been in the United States for seven months. But he's made the most of his time since arriving on American soil. Marquette made a strong play this spring for his services. So did Colorado, Wake Forest, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Memphis, and Marshall.
"He's a [long] kid who has good timing and can really block shots," Daniels said. "Offensively he has good hands and is fairly skilled inside. I think he's got a chance to be a very good college player down the road."
Dieng won MVP honors at the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic, while leading his team to victory with a 15-point, eight block, seven rebound performance. The 6-foot-10, 210-pound Dieng dominated the game with his shot blocking ability, controlling the lane defensively for the Black team.
"There are probably two guys – Perry Jones (Baylor) and Adrien Payne (Michigan State) – that may be better shot blockers in this class," Daniels said. "As far as Gorgui goes, his length and timing really stand out. He's a pretty good athlete but he's not going to overwhelm you with his athleticism. Where he's really impressive is with his length and timing. He's not going to go for ball-fakes. He's going to wait until you shoot it and he's going to block it."
Dieng's commitment to Louisville this week is big for a host of reasons, including stopping the negative momentum created last week by Teague and Chandler's decisions. Dieng also provides Louisville insurance in case Samardo Samuels unexpectedly remains in the NBA Draft. Samuels declared for the draft last week to test the waters, but didn't hire an agent, preserving his ability to return to UofL for his junior season. It also helps ease the loss of Chandler, who is rated one of the top centers in the Class of 2011.
"Where I think this really helps is to minimize the loss of Michael Chandler because Gorgui can come in next year and they already have a commitment from [2011 center] Zach Price," Daniels said. "So they are set at the center spot for a few years to come."
Currently rated a three-star recruit, Daniels expects Dieng to rise to a four-star recruit when Scout.com updates it's 2010 rankings this spring. That would make Dieng one of the Top 15 centers in the class.
"I think he'll definitely be a four-star, Top 100 prospect in our next rankings," Daniels said. "Where in the Top 100 is still being determined as we're going over our lists. Regardless of where he ends up in the rankings he is a very good get for Louisville. Once he adds strength to his frame he's got a chance to be a pretty good player for Louisville."
Blessed with good footwork on offense and uncanny timing and shot blocking ability on defense, Daniels expects Dieng to become a key contributor for Louisville down the road.
"He's going to surprise some people but he's a pretty good player," Daniels said. "I know his high school coach raves about him and thinks he's got a chance to be a special type prospect."