Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Travis Ford added another big piece to his 2019 Saint Louis University recruiting class today, securing the commitment of Madani Diarra, a 6'11", 245 lb. post player out of St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey. Diarra and the 6'11", 285 lb. Jimmy Bell, Jr., a fellow 2019 SLU commit, are the two largest players the Billiken head coach has landed since taking over in 2016 and will form an imposing frontcourt for the foreseeable future. Diarra announced his commitment on Twitter Sunday evening after his official visit to campus.
The announcement comes just nine days after his scholarship offer from SLU, his third offer overall, after Detroit and Mississippi Valley State. A late bloomer, Diarra's recruitment was relatively quiet due to a severe knee injury suffered in 2017 that resulted in a slow rehab process and almost two full high school seasons missed (in addition to the 2017 and 2018 AAU seasons). He was able to play the second half of his senior year while wearing a large leg brace.
There hasn't been much written about Diarra's game and stats are hard to come by. His sophomore highlight reel shows a long, offensively raw player with unconventional shooting mechanics, who chases down offensive boards and blocks, runs the floor, bullies his way into position, and uses the glass. By senior year, he has filled out his frame considerably, improved his shot, and gained more control of his body. He still goes at the glass relentlessly and is a back-to-the-basket post player on offense, and he appears to have a good sense of positioning at both ends, and how to take advantage of mismatches created by his size. He pulled down 21 rebounds in a game in mid-January this year.
Diarra and Bell add much-needed depth in addition to the ability to rebound and defend down low. Each will benefit from having to guard one another in practice. Reserve minutes will be available to spell Hasahn French and keep him out of foul trouble. Like Bell, Diarra's minutes in the short term will be limited as he gets up to speed physically, but there's significant long-term opportunity.
A native of Bamako, Mali, Diarra might also be a good ambassador for the program as SLU continues to recruit two Malian-born class of 2021 bigs playing locally at DeSmet Jesuit High School, Sekou Gassamma and Yaya Keita.
He might not be the grad transfer big man SLU fans have been clamoring for, but Diarra is an intriguing prospect with tremendous size. And Ford still has one scholarship left to give.