Sparta (NJ) Pope John XXIII center/power forward Moustapha Diagne, one of the most sought after players in the class of 2015, put an end to his recruitment by picking Syracuse on Saturday. With his recruitment behind him, CuseConfidential.com was able to talk with his current Coach, Jason Hasson, to get a better understanding of exactly what type of player Syracuse will be getting in Diagne.
When asked about the type of player Moustapha is and what Syracuse can expect, Coach Hasson was straight to the point.
"Moustapha is the epitome of what a Power Forward should be. He is strong and physical in the paint with a variety of post moves. He rebounds in and out of his area better than any forward that I have ever coached. Also, his offensive game has expanded out to 15-17 feet allowing him the freedom to come to the elbow and extended wing area and make plays against bigger defenders. With the ability to score on the block and from the elbow areas he becomes a very difficult matchup. On the defensive end, his length and quickness to go along with his strength allow him to guard every front court position".
To Syracuse fans, that should bring a smile to their faces. A knock on recent centers in the program is that they have had a difficult time on the offensive end. If Moustapha is able to be the type of player that can dominate on the offensive end of the court, he may just be what Syracuse has been missing to push them over the top and into a national championship game.
The biggest strength that Moustapha will be bringing to the program is more of an intangible that you just cannot teach, and one that his coaches think separates him from other players around the nation.
"Even though it's a cliché and you often hear this about a player, his motor is his biggest strength. He is relentless on both the offensive and defensive end. There are plenty of forwards who can bring energy in the first quarter but what separates Moustapha is his ability to bring the same energy through the game. On the offensive end he will sprint the floor every possession and in the half court work hard to establish position in the post and roll hard on every screen. Defensively, he will guard on the ball and in the post tirelessly and he never fails to box out when the shot goes up. Relentless is the best word to describe his game".
The high energy, highly motivated player seems to be just scratching the surface with his ability, and according to his coaches, as soon as Diagne realizes just how good he is and he perfects his skill set, Moustapha can become a dominating player in the NCAA.
"One of his biggest weakness is that he doesn't realize how good he truly is. He often will be too unselfish. Sometimes that could be viewed as a strength as well because he is always looking for his teammates, but there are times when he must learn to dominate an extended period of a game. That will come with more experience and through hard work as he continues to expand his offensive game".
Since arriving in the United States, Diagne has seemed focused on improving himself not only on the court, but also in the weight room. He has been committed to adding bulk, while not slowing himself down on the court. In the ACC, a big man with mobility is preferable to the Big East big men who were big and bulky.
"There are two things that have increased the level of his play. First is his work in the weight room. He is up to a solid 245 pounds now and is one of the strongest power forwards in the country. Second, is his expanded offensive game. He came here with some offensive skills, but through individual workouts he has expanded and added to his game. As mentioned his speed, especially in transition, fits perfectly into the ACC. What will separate him, is his combination of both speed and strength that will allow him to both play a fast pace but also punish defenders in the paint".
With Rakeem Christmas finishing his career after this upcoming season, and Dajuan Coleman slated to exit in 2016, Diagne looks poised to enter the mix and contribute immediately in the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone. According to Coach Hasson, Moustapha fits the mold perfectly to what the Syracuse coaches expect as an anchor to their defensive scheme.
"As mentioned before he has great speed, length (7'3" wingspan), and strength (400+ squats, 275+ deadlifts, etc.) which will allow him to play all three front court spots in the 2-3 zone. This greatly increases his value to Syracuse as he is versatile enough both offensively and defensively to allow for different lineups whether he is the center of the 2-3 and they play with a smaller lineup or he is the wing and they can go with a bigger lineup".
So what exactly was it that put Syracuse over the top from the other schools that were vying for Diagne's services?
"The thing that truly separated Syracuse from the other schools was Moustapha's relationship with Coach Autry. Coach Autry first started recruiting "Tapha" when they saw him play during his sophomore season versus St. Benedict's Prep. Coach Autry has been to our gym and to our games multiple times and has developed a very good rapport with Tapha. When Moustapha met the other coaches last year at Syracuse Elite Camp he was equally impressed with Coach Boeheim and Coach Hopkins (especially the energy Coach Hop brings). Getting to know Baye Moussa Keita and understanding his tremendous experience at Syracuse also played a role in his decision".
With Moustapha officially committed to Syracuse, the recruiting class of 2015 is turning out to be one of the most impressive in years. If Diagne can truly tap into the potential that his head coach sees, Syracuse will be getting an impressive player that can and will see the court early and often in his playing career.
With four, four-star recruits verbally committed to Syracuse, and more commitments likely on the horizon, it appears as if the coaching staff is gearing up for the next title run and adding a second national championship to the school's history under Coach Jim Boeheim.