Skip to main content

Things generally start off iffy for former Ohio State star Keita Bates-Diop.

He rode the bench as a freshman with the Buckeyes. He played a little more as a sophomore ... then suffered a stress fracture in his leg as a junior.

After a medical redshirt year of rehab and some serious sweat, Bates-Diop came back strong. He turned into a 6-foot-9 small forward who could do it all. By the end of the season, he was named Big Ten Player of the Year (2017-18).

That is why Bates-Diop didn't let his rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves get him down.

"Things don't always go your way," he said recently.

The Timberwolves drafted Bates-Diop in the second round (No. 48 overall) after his junior season at Ohio State. A lot of people felt Minnesota landed a steal.

A lot of people changed their minds quickly, as they often do in the sometimes impatient world of the NBA. Bates-Diop appeared in just 30 games as a rookie, averaging 5.0 points and 2.8 rebounds. Most of that came in garbage time.

Just like his freshman season at Ohio State, Bates-Diop found himself riding the bench. He was even assigned to Iowa of the G League to start this season.

Rarely does an NBA player spend a year in the NBA then feel good about being demoted to the G League. In fact, the feeling is usually the opposite of good. But Bates-Diop had been here before. Down, but not entirely out.

"I just try to stay positive," he said. "It's part of the process. I went into it with a good attitude."

Scroll to Continue

Read More


The Timberwolves are in their first season under president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas. Head coach Ryan Saunders is also in his first year as a full-timer, having an interim label removed over the summer.

Both men are trying to build a culture of resiliency. That makes Bates-Diop a good fit.

He was recalled after just a few weeks in Iowa. His minutes have increased and so has his production. He is now averaging 6.8 points and shooting 46 percent entering Saturday's game vs. the Cavaliers (8 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).

"He's been a guy who has played within himself," Saunders said of Bates-Diop. "When we had him in Iowa, it wasn't because of anything he was doing wrong. ... But as the NBA season goes, there are injuries, things that happen. And Keita is making the most of his opportunity."

In that sense, this is very much like Bates-Diop's sophomore season with the Buckeyes. He has been slowly but surely better than last year.

He credited some of that to former Timberwolves teammate Luol Deng. Bates-Diop is a product of Normal, Ill. He was raised in Chicago Bulls country when Deng stood out there. Last year, Deng was constantly in Bates-Diop's ear, offering advice and helping the rookie stay positive.

"I grew up in Illinois so I watched him a lot through the years," Bates-Diop said of Deng. "So when he was here, I picked his brain all the time. Off-the-court stuff, on-the court stuff. How to play, how to read defenses, everything."

Much like his time at Ohio State, Bates-Diop is hoping his pro career results in a strong middle and big finish.

So far, he appears to be on his way once again.