Syracuse Orange basketball signee Moustapha Diagne and his teammates at Pope John kept their 2014-2015 season alive with a 78-59 win in the Tournament of Champions semifinals on Saturday. Diagne will lead his squad into the championship game on Monday night, where they’ll take on Kentucky signee Isaiah Briscoe and Roselle Catholic.
Diagne came out of the gate slowly on offense, but took over for stretches in the second half. The 6-foot-9 post player finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, and a handful of assists, showing off a feathery touch on his midrange jump shot and swatting away shot attempts with little regard for the well being of that poor, defenseless basketball.
Diagne also showed off some outstanding strength, using his lower body to muscle his way in for rebounds, and snapping some crisp, long outlet passes throughout the game while also keeping the ball high above his head after defensive rebounds. Perhaps the most impressive example of this came at the end, when Diagne snared a defensive board with under a minute remaining, and keeping the ball over his head, pivoted and launched an outlet pass two thirds of the way down the court to a streaking teammate for a dunk to cap off the victory.
Overall, it wasn’t a terrific offensive display for Diagne, but his skills are clearly more advanced and polished than previously believed. Well, previously in terms of before the season started. Diagne had been thought of as “raw” on offense, but it’s clear his game has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the last year. He’s got a good, smooth routine and stroke at the free throw line as well, and should be able to develop into a reliable shooter at the foul line.
All in all, there’s a lot to like about Diagne’s game. If Thomas Bryant doesn’t find his way to Syracuse, then expect Diagne to get some significant minutes playing both the power forward and center positions. If Bryant does come, Diagne will still get some minutes, but will really make his impact as a sophomore and junior.