West Orange, New Jersey-- At the Mary Kline Classic, defense was a forgotten idea, dunks were hammered home and UConn fans saw signs that the future has the potential to be filled with dominant big men. Steven Enoch, who will enter UConn this fall, and Mamadou Diarra, high school class of 2016, both competed at the cancer awareness charity event.
Mamadou Diarra, from the Class of 2017, competed in the first event of the night, an underclassmen game. He participated alongside his Woodstock Academy teammate, UConn target Hamidou Diallo.
Diarra announced his decision to come to UConn last week. This was my first chance to see him play.
Mamadou is a large young man. Typically, the listed height and weight on a player is inflated, but Diarra is a true 6-foot-8.
Diarra also knows how to use that size. On multiple occasions, he set hard picks on defenders, causing them to bounce off him. When he didn't make contact on picks, his sheer width caused "defenders" to have to take an extra step getting around him. A lot of young big men don't have a good grasp of how to use their frame. Diarra seems to be ahead of schedule on that front.
Also, his mobility and catching ability were pleasant surprises. Several times in the underclassmen game, Diarra set or slipped a screen and roll with Diallo, caught the pass on the move and went up for easy dunks. Now, I understand this was a glorified pickup game, but those flashes of skill were positive signs of a mature game. It takes some big men years to develop that skill, sometimes they never do, [rhymes with Nil Pholan].
Mamdou Diarra is the first member of UConn's 2016 recruiting class. It looks to be a good start. Especially if you count recent transfer commitment Terry Larrier, who will be eligible to play in 2016 after sitting out this coming year.