CHICAGO — Moussa Diabate was sweating as he spoke to reporters at the NBA draft. He had just finished a five-on-five scrimmage on the floor of the Wintrust Arena in front of the NBA team evaluators, and was immediately training.
After a promising freshman season Michigan Basketball, the 6-foot-10 big man decided to enter his name into the 2022 NBA draft. He maintains his college eligibility and must be out of the draft by June 1. Combined workouts gave him the opportunity to compete with other NBA rookies and do interviews in front of the team.
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He said this week has been so busy that he doesn’t have much time to think about his draft stocks. For now, he could still return to Michigan next season.
“I’m not going to lie, my brain doesn’t even think about that right now,” Diabate said Friday. “I think, man, I need to go take a shower, talk to my family, eat something. I really don’t know right now. Come back in two hours and I think I’ll get what I need.”
Diabate earned Big Ten rookie honors after averaging nine points and six rebounds in 24.9 minutes per game last season. He started in Michigan’s last 26 games, and his size, athleticism and defensive versatility have helped him become one of the Wolverines’ best players.
He was initially unsure whether he would make it through the draft process after the season, but his training camp encouraged him to do so. He also has the backing of Michigan State head coach Juwan Howard, who knows the league as well as anyone as a former All-Star, two-time NBA champion and Miami Heat assistant coach.
A former five-star recruit, Diabate’s game makes him an interesting candidate at the next level. NBA teams value athletic, mobile bigs who can switch between defense and rebounding. Diabate tested extremely well on the combine, recording a vertical jump of 36.5 inches, 3 inches more than all other centers, and a standing vertical jump of 29 inches, second-best among centers. He also had the fastest lane agility time (11.16 seconds) and fastest shuttle run (2.9 seconds) and second-fastest three-quarter sprint (3.26 seconds).
“I went into it and saw that my role was that I became a dynamic person, really,” he said. “Defense, rebound, run, move and communicate on the court. Be someone who gives energy every time.”
Diabate is currently seen as a fringe option, but his combined performance should help his stock. Even if he isn’t drafted, a team that believes in his strengths could sign him on a two-way deal. He has less than two weeks to finalize his decision, but his priority is to have a lasting NBA career.
Whether he stays or leaves, the joint process has been beneficial to his growth, he said. Whether it’s this offseason or the next, his stock should continue to improve.
“In this situation, I feel like I’m able to stand up and get better,” Diabate said. “I don’t want to just go there and end up just being in the league for three years and leaving. I’m trying to get something structurally sound that will help me grow as a man, as a basketball player.”