The Kansas Jayhawks’ 2015 recruiting class has been uncharacteristically small so far. Bill Self’s squad only had one commit before today, from five-star power forward Carlton Bragg. However, the Jayhawks’ class grew today, as the program picked up a commitment from another five-star power forward in Cheick Diallo. Viewed as one of the top uncommitted recruits in the country, Diallo chose the Jayhawks over Iowa State, Kentucky, Louisville and St. John’s, among other schools.
He had as strong of an April as any prospect in the country, earning MVP honors at the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.
The prospective missing piece for Kansas basketball is a teenage big man who began playing organized basketball just five years ago.
Cheick Diallo, a Mali native and 6-foot-9 power forward, announced Tuesday that he will continue his basketball career at Kansas, completing the latest spring recruiting coup for KU coach Bill Self.
Diallo, who played his high school basketball in Long Island, picked Kansas over a list of finalist that also included Kentucky, Iowa State and St. John’s.
The latest recruiting domino fills a major need in the paint for the Jayhawks, offering size, length and athleticism. Rated as the nation’s No. 5 overall recruit by Rivals.com, Diallo comes to Kansas after a sterling finish to his prep career.
Diallo was selected MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game in early April before earning co-MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn two weeks ago. His numbers in the Jordan Game were especially impressive — albeit with the All-Star game caveats. Diallo finished with 26 points on 12-for-16 shooting and snared 11 rebounds.
Diallo’s backstory, in broad ways, mirrors that of former Kansas standout Joel Embiid, a native of Cameroon. Growing up in Mali, West African nation of 14.5 million people, Diallo didn’t start playing basketball until around 2010 or 2011. He was discovered in Bamako, Mali, by Mali-American talent scout named Tidiane Drame, who has since guided Diallo’s path in America. After coming to the United States, Diallo landed at Our Savior New American High School in Long Island, N.Y., where he began refining his his raw game and lived with a host family.
Throughout the recruiting process, Self made it clear that the frontcourt would be a priority. The Jayhawks’ lack of inside scoring was a persistent problem last season.
The Jayhawks also lacked a true rim protector. The numbers are familiar by now. KU shot 46.4 percent inside the three-point line, which was the lowest mark of the Self era. Junior forward Jamari Traylor shot just 48.6 percent and finished on just 54 percent of his shots at the rim. Sophomore Landen Lucas was slightly better in a smaller sample, shooting 53 percent from the floor and 59 percent at the rim. But neither player profiles as a true low-post option — somebody that can catch with their back to the basket and score.