By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — It’s been well-documented that Arkansas coaches have cast a wide net while recruiting 2019 frontline prospects to help ease the expected departure of Hogs’ star big man Daniel Gafford after the 2018-19 season. And in 2019 Mahamadou Diawara (6-10 with 7-3 wingspan, 220, forward/center), Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia, native of Mali, ESPN 4-star prospect), Arkansas has a recruit who has actually played against Gafford in informal pick-up-game settings in Fayetteville.
“He gave me buckets, and I gave Daniel buckets, too,” said Diawara, who confirmed he lived briefly in Bentonville last year, that he’s been on Arkansas’s campus multiple times (although not on official or unofficial vists), and that he played pickup games with Razorback players in the summer. “It was fun to play (with and against Gafford).”
Diawara said his lead recruiter is Arkansas associate head coach Melvin Watkins, and he has great affection for Arkansas and its coaching staff.
“Arkansas is one of my favorites, 100%,” Diawara said. “I love the coaches (Watkins and head coach Mike Anderson).”
Diawara, who will sign in the spring period that begins in mid-April but could commit anytime after taking visits, holds reported offers from Georgia Tech, Penn State, Temple, Virginia Commonwealth, Rhode Island, East Carolina, and others with Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, UConn, and Virginia Tech showing interest.
Diawara said he has already taken official visits to Virginia and East Carolina, and is planning to visit Temple and UConn in the near future.
“I can’t wait to visit Arkansas,” said Diawara, adding that Watkins was “supposed to come see me last Wednesday, but they cancelled because of the weather.”
Diawara, who never attended school in Arkansas, has additional ties to the state. In 2016-17, he played at independent power Hamilton Heights (TN) and matched up against Little Rock-based Southwest Chrisitian Academy (SCA) in a showcase game in Mississippi in January, then later in July he joined then-SCA head coach Charles Baker and the Arkansas-based Wings Elite 16U to finish out the 2017 grassroots basketball season.
“I really joined the team, it was great,” Diawara said of playing with the Wings Elite while pointing out it was his first experience playing grassroots basketball. “I liked my teammates and Coach Baker, they were all nice people. That moment was great.”
Diawara showed well while playing his 2018 grassroots basketball with Boo Williams 17U on the Nike EYBL circuit, and he was invited and took part in the prestigious NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA, in June. He wasn’t able to provide his current statisitics so far in 2018-19 playing his senior season at Massanutten Military Academy, but he said he typically reaches double-digits in points and rebounds while also blocking his share of shots. In his last game, an 89-74 Massanhutten win over Spire (OH) on Saturday, Diawara had 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Having watched Diawara play and practice, he’s a long and athletic volume rebounder and shot-blocker, and he’s an opportunistic blue-collar scorer, has soft hands, and attacks the offensive glass with a vengance. He can cover a lot of ground quickly to make plays out of his area, and he has the potential to be an elite defender.
Diawara is one of several frontline prospects Arkansas has recruited as the coaching staff prepares for Gafford to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft following the current season.
The Hogs have an offer out to ’19 Doudou Gueye (6-9, 220, sophomore forward, Daytona State College juco in Florida) — a player that Hog coaches have watched play in person at least a couple of times. They also have an offer out to ’19 Javon Franklin (6-7 combo forward, Holmes, MS, Community College via Little Rock Parkview), who is redshirting with a broken leg and will have three years of playing eligibility at the NCAA Division 1 level beginning in ’19-20. Franklin intends to take an official visit to Arkansas in January or February.
Arkansas has also been evaluating two other 6-9 forwards in the ’19 class — Demontay Dixon (a freshman qualifier at Walters State Community College in Tennessee) and Jalyn McCreary (a senior at Legacy Early College High School in South Carolina). Arkansas assistant coach T.J. Cleveland has traveled to watch both players in recent weeks.
Arkansas signed one player during the mid-November early period — Justice Hill (5-11 point guard, Little Rock Christian Academy), who will join the Razorbacks within the week as an early enrollee.
Below are several linked highlights and tweets of Diawara, including when he went head-to-head against national Top 35 / 4-star center Kofi Cockburn (6-10, 255) of Oak Hill (VA) Academy …
Mahamadou Diawara vs kofi
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