He’s coming back.
Mamadi Diakite on Wednesday announced he has pulled his name from the 2019 NBA Draft pool and will return to Virginia for his final season of college eligibility.
The forward declared for the draft on April 17, but after testing the waters and meeting with several NBA teams, Diakite opted to return to Charlottesville.
“I am excited to announce that after testing the waters and getting great exposure and encouraging feedback, I have decided to return to the University of Virginia for my senior year,” Diakite wrote in an Instagram post. “I can’t wait to join my coaches and teammates and get to work as we try to win another one.”
Diakite averaged 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in 2018-19. He shone brightest in the postseason, starting in the team’s final five games of the NCAA Tournament, including the Cavaliers’ 85-77 overtime win over Texas Tech in the national championship game. His improved shot-blocking ability provided a dangerous new wrinkle to the Cavaliers’ famed Pack Line defense, and he’ll be looked on to play a similar role next season.
A person close to Diakite said the forward initially intended to return to UVa unless a first-round section appeared possible. But as time wore on and that possibility became less likely, Diakite weighed keeping his name in the pool anyway.
He returns to UVa with added luster after going through the draft process. Diakite did not earn an invite to the NBA Scouting Combine but did participate in the NBA G League Elite Camp. He worked out for the Warriors, Kings, Clippers, Hawks and Spurs.
Coach Tony Bennett often noted last season that Diakite was new to the game. Indeed, Diakite, a native of Conakry, Guinea, first picked up a basketball at age 14 with hopes of earning a professional contract and giving back to Guinea, a developing nation.
That sentiment, paired with Diakite’s breakout postseason, led some to believe that, in the event the 6-foot-9 forward was told by NBA teams he should return to UVa for more seasoning, he might instead try to play in the G League or seek a professional contract overseas. Others pointed out that both of Diakite’s parents are doctors who stress the importance of a college education. Diakite, a French major, has not yet completed an undergraduate degree.
Back on Grounds for another season, Diakite will aim to smooth out the rough edges in his game. A bouncy athlete with good timing on the defensive glass, he has proven an inconsistent shooter from distance. With NBA teams placing more emphasis on the 3-pointer, Diakite will aim to be more efficient from distance in his final season; he shot 29.4 percent from long range this past season.
There will be plenty of shots available, given that Virginia’s top three scorers from last season — guards Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome — have all declared for the draft. With center Jack Salt’s eligibility having expired, Diakite joins guards Kihei Clark and Braxton Key as the only returners from last season’s rotation.