The Wolverine

December 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2020 THE WOLVERINE 65   COMMITMENT PROFILE E very year a recruit seems to come out of nowhere to shock the college basket- ball world and commit to an unexpected school. Michigan has been on the wrong end of these over the last few de- cades, for the most part, even with those for whom they were once favored. Not this year, and not in this class. Wolverines basketball coach Juwan Howard picked up a signing week pledge from elite forward Moussa Diabate Nov. 9 and got the 6-9 five-star ranked as the No. 7 senior nationally by ESPN to sign on the dotted line Nov. 11, capping the nation's top-ranked 2021 recruiting haul. A modern-day forward who can face up and put it on the floor, Diabate chose the Wol- verines over offers from Ken- tucky, Auburn, Florida and several others. The Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy standout had been flirting with the G-League, as well, but several sources indicated he made a vow upon his commitment to play at least a year in Ann Arbor. Howard first noticed his new ad- dition when watching sophomore Franz Wagner at the FIBA U18 Eu- ropean Championships last summer. Though Diabate rarely talks (and hadn't been interviewed about his pledge by anyone as of Nov. 14, five days after his commitment), Howard continued to work behind the scenes to develop the relationship. "There is such a comfort for me with Coach and the other players, especially the incoming guys, that it made my decision easy," Diabate said in a statement. "There are big things ahead, and I cannot wait to be part of it." The slender, 190-pound standout plays at IMG with Howard's son Jett, a very likely future Wolverine him- self. That likely helped Michigan's chances, as did Howard's success with other players on the recruiting trail. Elite players want to play with other standouts and want to win, and Howard is collecting talent at an un- believable pace. Several analysts believe Diabate has as much upside as any of them. He's raw and extremely athletic, but skilled, standing "somewhere between 6-9 and 6-11," Kentucky analyst David Sisk re- ported, noting IMG lists him at the latter. "He has the perfect basketball phy- sique for a young man that age," Sisk reported after seeing him play this fall. "He also runs like a wing. Put that together with his length, and you have a potential shutdown de- fender. "I was impressed how he could convert tough buckets around the rim in traffic. He shows a blue-col- lar mentality on both ends … turns offense into defense. He picks up a guard at the half-line and hawks the ball with a great stance and humble, active feet. That is a potential four or five on the college level picking up like that out front." national recruiting ana- lyst Rob Cassidy, meanwhile, saw him in November, calling him an "animal on the glass." "His length and style of play are conducive to such a thing, sure, but his instincts are also something to behold," Cassidy said. "He's not a pol- ished scorer just yet, but he doesn't need to be in order to make his mark. "That's not to say the long, athletic forward doesn't finish at the rim, because he does in stretches. It's just to say the French-born standout is yet to scratch his massive potential on offense." Howard can't wait to get his hands on him and polish him up. Diabate is "high-energy on the court and high-charac- ter off the court," according to a statement release by his new coach, who noted the prospect also has an incredible work ethic and is "all-in" as a team- mate. He also continues to prog- ress each year. He played at DME Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla., as a sophomore and averaged 17.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, becoming his conference's first sophomore to win player of the year honors in earning his way on to MaxPreps Sophomore All-America third team. He followed up with 14.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and helped IMG to a 19-7 record last year before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though he has work to do offen- sively, his defense will help the pro- gram immediately. "He can switch on just about anyone and there will not be a mis- match," Sisk said. "In fact, I believe he can defend the two through the five, and perhaps all five positions. I watched Diabate do this several times in four games … switch on to talented perimeter players and never blink." That will be harder in Big Ten play, of course, but Diabate has proven he'll put in the work. That makes him one of the Big Ten's top signees, and Howard's latest coup in only his second season at the helm. — Chris Balas Diabate "There are big things ahead, and I cannot wait to be part of it." Diabate is ranked as a five-star recruit and the No. 7 senior nationally by ESPN. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM Elite Forward Moussa Diabate Caps U-M's Top-Rated Recruiting Class

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