They may not play the same position, but tonight the two headliners in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions final are Syracuse University signee Moustapha Diagne and Kentucky commit Isaiah Briscoe. Diagne and his Pope John team will be taking on Briscoe and his Roselle Catholic squad tonight at 8:00 p.m.
Diagne scored 11 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and swatted five shots in a semifinal win over Newark Tech on Saturday, while Briscoe – a former Syracuse target and teammate of Tyler Ennis – scored 18 points in a blowout victory over Paulsboro. Briscoe’s team also ended the season for Diagne’s fellow Syracuse signee Malachi Richardson in the Non-Public B state semifinals.
Diagne has a chance for immediate minutes next season, depending on what happens with Thomas Bryant. The 6-foot-9 post player can be dominant on the glass and is a gifted shot blocker, but it’s his offense that has jumped out at people this year. He’s only averaging about 14 points per game on the year, but his offensive skill set is leaps and bounds beyond where people thought it would be at this point in his development. He still won’t be a guy easily confused with, say, Tim Duncan, but he’s also certainly more advanced than, for example, former Syracuse center Baye Keita.
Briscoe, on the other hand, will no doubt remind Syracuse fans of another former Orangeman. This is a comparison I first made when I watched Briscoe playing alongside Ennis at St. Benedict’s, but it’s becoming more and more apt as Briscoe develops from a physical standpoint: Dion Waiters. Briscoe is basically a Waiters clone with his strength and ability to slash and score at the rim. That’s not to say he’s only a driving scorer, because he’s got a developing perimeter game as well.
It should be an interesting matchup between Pope John and Roselle Catholic. Roselle, by the way, is where current Orange forward Tyler Roberson won a TOC title, on a team that also featured, at the time, Malachi Richardson.
Check back tonight to watch the game live online, and in the meantime, ponder just how frequently kids in New Jersey high school basketball seem to transfer schools.