Scanning the Portal: Another Forward Option for the Gators Emerges

The Florida Gators are still in search of a forward prospect to complete their roster rebuild. UNLV transfer Cheikh Mbacke Diong sits as the latest option for the Gators to fill that void.
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On a mission to reconfigure a roster left in disarray following the 2020-21 season's conclusion, Florida Gators head coach Mike White has been more active than ever before in terms of acquiring talent from the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Obtaining strong replacements for the program's departures in the early portion of the offseason, White has focused on rebuilding the Florida backcourt with talented two-way pieces.

Setting the group up to be a deep rotation next season, Florida has earned commitments from Brandon McKissic, Myreon Jones and Phlandrous Fleming, seemingly solidifying the guard position.

However, the operation to add experience and overall depth to the roster is not finished, given the void in the Gators frontcourt. Acquiring CJ Felder from Boston College, UF added an improved replacement for Osayi Osifo at the four spot.

With Omar Payne headed to Illinois, landing another forward prospect has become a large priority. After losing out on Noah Gurley to Alabama on Sunday, Florida looked to be in an unfavorable spot given the slim pickings of big men in the portal.

Scanning the portal prior to Gurley’s decision, the only other big man that stood out as a sure-fire pickup for the Gators if they are looking for more than a sparingly used rotational piece was Massachusetts’ Tre Mitchell, who about 75 schools have contacted since entering himself into the portal.

With Mitchell looking to be a long shot, the Gators were gifted with another portal goer on Monday as a coveted target hit the open market, vying to continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere with aspirations of the NBA following one year as a graduate transfer.

Standing at 6-foot-11, 235-pound, former UNLV Rebels big man Cheikh Mbacke Diong is free for the taking for a multitude of power five schools looking to add height and length in the upcoming year.

Originally from Dakar, Senegal, Diong has ties to the state of Florida, playing high school basketball in Melbourne (Fla.) at Florida Air Academy. Despite never receiving an official offer from Florida, the home-state prospect received a look from White and his staff before electing to go in a different direction.

Proving his worth in four seasons at UNLV, Diong would post a modest 8.9 points — shooting 60.7 percent from the field — 7.4 rebounds and 1 block per game in 27 starts during the 2020-21 season.

Fitting the mold of players that have transferred into the Florida program ahead of him, Diong possesses incredible length with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, allowing him to dominate the boards and protect the rim defensively.

Named Mountain West Conference All-Defense in 2020-21, Diong would be a menacing addition to the Gators team, operating at the four and five spots alongside Anthony Duruji and Colin Castleton (if he returns).

In an article by ESPN, Diong expressed his desire to head to a program that consistently makes the NCAA Tournament, providing him a chance to gain recognition for the next level.

"If I decided to return to college, I want to go to a winning program that goes to the NCAA tournament," he said. "Having more visibility is a big thing for me. Also somewhere where they can develop me and showcase my potential —what I can bring to the table defensively and offensively."

Reaching the tournament in four straight seasons, UF fits that criteria while also providing the spotlight of the SEC in the process.

With very few starting options available at the forward position, Florida is in dire need of landing a prospect like Diong in the coming weeks.

Given his ties to the state of Florida and the obvious holes that the Gators can patch with his presence, Diong allows for the roster to be filled from top to bottom with heightened talent from last season.

Essentially, with the backcourt already solidified, adding Diong is the final piece to complete the rebuild in Gainesville.