The Wolverine

June-July 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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30 THE WOLVERINE JUNE/JULY 2021   2021 BASKETBALL RECRUITING ISSUE BY AUSTIN FOX W hen Michigan hired head coach Juwan Howard on May 22, 2019, it was widely assumed he would have tremendous success with the big men he coached in Ann Arbor. That was on full display this past season when freshman center Hunter Dick- inson exceeded expectations by av- eraging 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game en route to earning the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year award and second-team All-America honors. Dickinson was a coveted prospect out of high school (the No. 40 player nationally according to, but Howard's 2021 class contains an even higher-rated big man in Moussa Diabate, a four-star power forward from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy. Rivals rates Diabate as the No. 26 overall player in the country and the best four-star prospect in the en- tire 2021 class. His junior and senior seasons were the only ones he spent at powerhouse IMG Academy, af- ter coming to the United States from France as an eighth grader. "Moussa has an undying motor and is constantly everywhere on the court," his head coach, Sean McAloon, said. "He can guard multiple positions and is just a rebounding machine, espe- cially on the offensive end. The main reason he's such a good rebounder is because of how relentless he is. Moussa never takes any pos- sessions off and al- ways plays hard. "He is such a well- ro u n d e d p l a y e r whose versatility is probably his biggest overall strength. If you play in a system where you switch screens defensively, he can guard any- body on the floor from the opponent's point guard to their center." Diabate is known more for his defen- sive prowess and shot-blocking abilities than his offensive skill set, but McAloon revealed he's capable of stepping out and knocking down three-pointers if needed. The IMG Academy head man added that Diabate didn't necessarily display that aspect of his game much this past season, simply because he was the tallest player on the team and was "needed closer to the basket." Howard has already proven dur- ing his short time as a head coach he knows how to get the best out of his big men, and Diabate will be expected to follow suit. Howard's expertise in frontcourt play — first as a player and now as a coach — makes him an ap- pealing option for high school bigs, but McAloon made it clear Diabate was sold on Howard's vision before Dickin- son turned into a force as a freshman. "I think it's important to remember Moussa committed to Michigan be- fore they even began their season," McAloon explained. Diabate committed to U-M Nov. 9, 2020, and the Wolverines tipped off their 2020-21 campaign more than two weeks later Nov. 25. "Juwan having played in the NBA for as long as he did and then hav- ing coached in it was an intriguing aspect for Moussa," McAloon said. "What sold him the most, though, was the sincerity of the relationship the two built throughout the process. I think Juwan just wanted a great kid with high character and class who will fit into his culture." Culture is the key word in McAlo- on's description of why Diabate chose the Maize and Blue. Howard has preached about it endlessly since he took over in Ann Arbor, and has made it clear how imperative it is for any newcomers to assimilate to the way the Wolverines do their business. The creation of a family atmosphere centered around Bo Schembechler's famous "The Team, The Team, The Team" mantra describes what How- ard has built perfectly, and Diabate fits the bill both as a person and player. "What's great about Moussa is that he's extremely coachable and is just an all-around great teammate," McAloon said. "He isn't a rah-rah guy or anything like that, but people still follow him because of his work ethic. Moussa doesn't speak much, but when he does it carries a lot of weight with his teammates — he's more of a lead-by-example kind of guy." The aforementioned narrative sur- rounding Diabate is also one that could be used for the two veteran transfers Howard brought in prior to this past season, in fifth-year senior guard Mike Smith and senior guard Chaundee Brown. Both Smith and Brown said numer- ous times one of the primary rea- sons they transferred to Michigan was thanks to the family atmosphere Howard had fostered, a selling point that Diabate bought into as well. "Moussa's relationship with Juwan over the phone is ultimately what won him over and made him go with Michigan," McAloon noted. "The re- lationship those two have is so genu- ine. Moussa had some pretty good offers on the table, but Juwan's over- all sincerity and the care he showed was a big deal for him. "Moussa has an outstanding sup- port staff down here at IMG Academy, and I think he wanted that same kind of family support system in college. Sure enough, Michigan has that." Diabate is not heavily active on social media and prefers to stay out of the limelight, McAloon added, a rarity for elite high school prospects nowadays. "Even though he's a great player, Moussa is so humble," McAloon con- cluded, which is yet another attribute that'll translate perfectly into the cul- ture Howard has built. ❏ A PERFECT MATCH Moussa Diabate Has The Qualities To Fit Seamlessly Into Michigan's Team Culture Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy head coach Sean McAloon "What's great about Moussa is that he's extremely coachable and is just an all-around great teammate." rates Diabate as the No. 26 over- all player in the country and the best four- star prospect in the entire 2021 class. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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