Virginia is positioning itself to remain in the ACC’s top tier after its current veteran core leaves the program. On Tuesday, the Hoos added another coveted prospect to their 2016 recruiting class, securing a commitment from four-star power forward Mamadi Diakite, his coach at The Blue Ridge School, Cade Lemcke, confirmed to SI.com. Diakite chose Virginia over USC and Washington.
A native of Guinea, Diakite grew up playing soccer and began focusing on basketball less than five years ago. He arrived in the United States last January and enrolled at Blue Ridge, a private institution in St. George, Va., about 20 miles away from Virginia’s campus in Charlottesville. Diakite impressed with his athleticism and quickness and began garnering attention from high-major programs even though his offensive skills are limited. He rose nearly 50 spots in the latest Rivals150 rankings and showed well at the prestigious NBPA Top 100 camp in June.
At 6'9", 205 pounds, Diakite projects as a strong post defender who potentially could match up with a range of opposing big men. His decision won’t comfort the teams that have consistently failed to penetrate Virginia’s pack-line scheme under coach Tony Bennett. Though he’s not a skilled scorer, Diakite can make plays around the rim thanks to his leaping ability and long arms. His capacity for emphatic finishes from close range has been described in hyperbolic terms.
His commitment comes about two months after another highly-regarded power forward in the class of 2016, four-star prospect Sacha Killeya-Jones, decommitted from the Hoos. Still, that defection hasn’t overshadowed the players that have honored their pledges to Bennett. Four-star shooting guard Kyle Guy is considered one of the best three-point shooters in the class of 2016, and top-70 point guard Ty Jerome is a proficient playmaker and poised ballhandler.
Virginia also earned a commitment from three-star power forward Jay Huff.
With promising players in the frontcourt and on the perimeter, this class could serve as the foundation of Virginia’s next ACC contender. Three of the top five scorers—star point guard Malcolm Brogdon and power forwards Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill—from last season’s No. 1 seed squad return, but all of them will be seniors. Given the projected composition of Virginia’s frontcourt rotation down the line—talented Memphis transfer Austin Nichols will become eligible in 2016—Diakite should be pressed into action early in his career.
Other potential targets for Virginia in the class of 2016 include four-star small forwards DeAndre Hunter and Braxton Blackwell, the latter of whom included the Hoos on his recent top-six list.