Diallo commits to Minutemen

For The Recorder
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Senegal native Samba Diallo has only played basketball in the United States for two seasons. But the 6-foot-7 wing who lives in Sparta, N.J., and plays at Pope John XXIII, quickly established himself as a Division I prospect.

This week, the high school senior committed to UMass.

“Thank you to My family @NYJayhawks, @dbaacademy & @PopeJohnBball, & My TeamMates. I am officially committing to UMASS! #Thankful,” he wrote via Twitter.

Diallo, who speaks French, Wolof and English, chose UMass over offers from Rutgers, Virginia, VCU, Saint Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure.

“I think it’s a great fit for him. He’s a very good athlete and plays hard all the time. He can guard one through four and play two through four. He’s like a Swiss Army knife,” said Vincent Johnson, who coached Diallo as a junior at Pope John. “Coach (Matt) McCall and Coach (Rasheen) Davis did a great job recruiting him and really maintained the relationship.”

Diallo was ranked as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals, and a four-star recruit by ESPN.

Johnson said Diallo has only begun to unlock his potential.

“He has a lot of room to grow and we thought UMass was a great place for him to do that,” he said. “He can get so much better.”

Diallo’s cousin, Moustapha Diagne, who is currently a redshirt sophomore at Western Kentucky, played at Pope John after arriving from Senegal. Diallo followed a similar path.

Jason Hasson coached Diagne at Pope John and had Diallo in his first year in the U.S. as a sophomore.

“Samba is a really hard worker. He worked really hard in the class room. He asked for extra help if he was struggling,” he said. “He was very proactive in his academics. He really wanted to adapt, academically, socially and on the court,” Hasson said. “He would ask me if we could come in before school at 6 a.m. two or three days for weight lifting or to get some shots up.”

Hassan said his athleticism was apparent right away.

“He’s extremely explosive. Very quick. He’s very athletic. For his size he has elite-level quickness and elite-level explosiveness,” Hassan said. “His shot is good. He makes open shots, but I think that’s something he’ll work on at the next level.”

UMass has had three natives of Africa on its roster in recent years. Stephane Lasme (Gabon), Michael Lasme (Ivory Coast) and Alassane Kouyate (Mali).