Top 100 MVP Diallo thrilled to pocket offer from Kentucky

broberts@herald-leader.comJune 18, 2014 

Diallo

RIVALS

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Much was made of Kentucky's chances to land top basketball recruit Cheick Diallo after the program hired Barry "Slice" Rohrssen as a new assistant coach last month.

Rohrssen was previously an assistant at Pittsburgh and had already been recruiting Diallo for nearly a year. Less than a week after Rohrssen was introduced at UK, the Wildcats offered Diallo a scholarship.

The 6-foot-9 power forward beamed when Rohrssen's name was mentioned Wednesday during an interview at the NBPA Top 100 Camp.

It didn't have anything to do with basketball.

"He speaks a little bit of French," Diallo said, "and French is my first language."

Rohrssen speaks French?

"Little bit," Diallo said, his smile getting bigger. "He's not really good."

But he apparently gets an A-plus for effort.

Diallo — a native of Mali — acknowledged that Rohrssen is among the college coaches that he has the best relationship with. He said he doesn't know John Calipari that well, but he was elated when he finally landed the scholarship offer from UK.

"When Kentucky offered me, I was so happy," he said. "I have a lot of top schools, but Kentucky is the best school, you know?"

Diallo, who plays for a high school team on Long Island, also has scholarship offers from Kansas, Louisville, Syracuse, Florida and dozens of others. Pittsburgh is still firmly in the mix, but his recruitment isn't the top priority at the moment.

The class of 2015 standout was named the most valuable player over several older competitors at last year's Top 100 Camp. He's back to defend that title.

"Last year, I was killing people," Diallo said. "And this year I want to do my best to get MVP again."

Scout.com recruiting analyst Evan Daniels said that wouldn't be a surprise.

Diallo is considered the No. 5 overall prospect in the Scout rankings, and Daniels noted that his rapidly improving game starts with the unparalleled energy he brings to the floor.

Whether it's a high school game, an AAU game or a camp setting, Diallo is consistently playing hard.

"It's rare in high school basketball to see that in a player," Daniels said. "I think that's what makes him stick out above these other guys. He has the highest motor in high school basketball, and I don't think it's even close.

"Every time on the floor, you know what you're going to get from him. Sometimes it can be a little bit of a crapshoot with some of these guys, as far as effort."

Diallo is arguably the best post defender in the country. He's a terrific rebounder, runs the floor extremely well for his size, and Daniels says he's much more gifted offensively than a lot of people give him credit for.

"I think he has a lot of tools and can score in a variety of ways," he said. "He's going to have to get stronger. I think he can certainly fine-tune his post moves, but he can already score some on the block. He can make a mid-range jump shot. And then he's always going to get the put-back points."

As for his recruitment, that's probably not anywhere close to a conclusion.

Diallo said that he'll start paying more attention to recruiting in the coming months and would like to make a decision on his college destination sometime "next year," though he doesn't have any immediate plans for campus visits.

He did say he watched Kentucky on television quite a bit this past season and liked the way the Wildcats played down the stretch.

Daniels didn't offer any predictions, but he expects UK to stick around.

"I think they're certainly heavily involved," he said. "It's still a little early with Cheick. Pittsburgh is still really involved, along with a handful of other schools. But Kentucky is certainly going to make him a priority."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

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