May 31, 2014

Tapha talks about verbal

Sparta (NJ) Pope John XXIII center Moustapha Diagne has decided to end his recruitment as he gave a verbal commitment to the Syracuse Orange. After the verbal he spoke with CuseConfidential.com about his decision and why he picked the Orange.

"I knew you were going to ask this question at the beginning. It is the most important one. My host family has a relative in California. We visited him back in November 2012 and while we were there we had the chance to see Syracuse play in San Diego. The game was played on a big American warship and it was exciting. I didn't know much about college basketball then. That started my interest in Syracuse and it grew from there. We sat near the high school coach of Brandon Triche and many Orange fans who were telling me about the school. The fans were CRAZY! A bunch of them were screaming, even back then, "If you wanna win…put Tapha in!!! If you wanna win…put Tapha in!!!" It was so fun to hear them. I remember asking how they can say this because I was only in 10th grade. Again, it was really crazy. Later when I got more interest and asked more questions I read a book about Syracuse basketball to learn more (The Orangemen: Syracuse University Men's Basketball by Mike Waters / Arcadia Pub). It is a good school with a long history of basketball power. Looking at all the big men that have played there I thought it could be the right fit for me."

Right from the start the coaches in Diagne's life have always made a big impact and as he gets ready for the next level he sees his new coaches in the same light as his past coaches. That was one of the most important if not the most important factors in picking the Orange.

"There are two things that are very important to me. Coaching and playing time. I have always had very smart and dedicated coaches. Coach Momo (Diede Sene) and Coach (Jason) Hasson have been very good to me, helping me get better in so many ways. I have to trust the coaches with my development as a person and as a player. Coach Boeheim is in the Hall of Fame. His staff is the best! They have given me a lot of confidence. It is also important that from the beginning I am given a chance to contribute and help my team. The coaches are very smart and I have come to believe there is a spot for me to play immediately at power forward and make difference."

The calendar might say May, but the moment he knew Syracuse was the right school was back in February on his official visit. It was also the same time that the Orange played an epic game against new conference rival Duke.

"On my official visit back in February, Coach Boeheim spoke to my mother and African Coach (Momo Diede Sene) and helped all of us see what kind of opportunity Syracuse had for me. During that talk, I felt a strong sense that this was the place for me to play college basketball. There is a true family there. I see it every day during the season and after the season on social media. They all love each other and stick together."

The four star prospect continued a little bit more in depth talking about the family aspect and his relationship with Adrian Autry as well as Jim Boeheim,

"My relationship with Coach Autry was great. I would always tell him, "I gotcha Coach, I gotcha." I really trusted him to guide me and make me aware of just how Syracuse could use my skills. He visited me many times and kept in touch with me during my high school and AAU seasons. He would also call when he was able to talk about my game and more. We made a special bond. When I had a chance to speak with Coach Boeheim he was very kind and thoughtful. He is a good listener and helped me see the best in myself. He really wants me to feel like I am coming to Syracuse to contribute on offense. On defense, he likes my 7'5 foot wingspan."

On Rivals.com Diagne is listed as a center, but at Syracuse the Orange are looking for him to play a different position.

"They want me to play the power forward, my favorite position. Coach Boeheim wants me to work off the block, and also step out to the elbow and attack the rim and jump shoot. He thinks I will be very difficult to guard because of my size and speed. If our guards get me the ball in good positions, I will really score."

Once he steps on the Syracuse campus it could be easier said than done because he stills has a lot to work on, but he is not letting that weigh on him. When asked about his strengths and weaknesses he was quite the comedian.

"It's a surprise. They will have to wait and see. Off the court, strengths? Eating! I can eat a lot. My favorite foods are chicken and rice dishes, burgers, steaks, fish, chicken wings and Reese Puffs (because they taste really good and it comes in an orange box!). Weakness? I tend to eat too much food. "

With the joking aside Diagne wants the Orange fans know that he will be ready to work to help produce positive results for the Orange.

"The fans should be ready to see me play hard, support my teammates, and follow the coaches. They should also expect to see plenty of blocks, rebounds, and balls going through the net. I really like to score."

Now that his recruitment has ended what will he take away as one moment to look back on?

"I keep going back to when my family and coaches went to the Carmelo Anthony Center and we were sitting in Coach Boeheim's really nice office during my official visit in February. Coach Momo spoke to Coach Boeheim in my native language, Wolof so that my mother could understand what he was saying. Coach Boeheim did not understand but listened with great patience as I translated everything into English. He was very respectful, honest about my strengths and weaknesses, and it was then that I was convinced that he would be a good coach and mentor."

For a young man to leave his home and travel across the ocean is tough, but to do so and compete athletically at a high level says a lot about Diagne. His commitment to Syracuse is one great example he will always have to show for his hard work. He talked about what his commitment means to himself.

"I have been able to study for three years at a top high school like Pope John. It now means that I have the opportunity to continue to study at a top university, play for an elite program that has the best coaches in America's best conference. I am really blessed and I promise to use this opportunity to become a better student, a better person and a better citizen."

The final quote from the future Orange power forward was short and sweet and something he plans to hear a lot in his future.

" Go Orange!"



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