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April 3, 2013

Area bigs worth a look

Raleigh, NC - Wake Forest does not have to go far to find frontline talent with Winston-Salem (NC) Quality Education Academy being about a stone's throw from the University.

QEA head coach Isaac Pitts has developed a pipeline into the Western African nation Senegal after bringing in junior center Ibrahima Diallo and freshman Pape Ndaiye.

"They complement each other's game," Pitts said. "Diallo's a little bit bigger body. Pape can move away from the basket. He can shoot it, put it on the floor. They play great together, feed off each other. They're best friends. What more could you ask for."

The 6-foot-10, 215-pound Diallo came to the United States two years ago. French is Diallo's first language, so learning English and getting adjusted to the American way of life has been a significant change for him.

"It's [transition from Senegal to the U.S.] been very, very tough, because I have to get used to [the style of play in the U.S.], because they play very tough and fast over here," Diallo said. "Back in my country we're strong, we're big, but we don't play fast like you all play over here."

"I have to adapt. I'm getting used to it. They take care of me at my school."

To make things more difficult for Diallo the 2014 prospect tore his ACL last May, but aside from the brace he wears on his knee it is difficult for one to tell if the athletic big man is being held back at all.

Diallo did a good job of scoring in the paint, including a decent mid-range shooting touch at the Dave Telep Carolina Challenge Saturday, March 23.

"I tore my ACL," Diallo said. "I was really focused on getting back; not really the schools, because I'm a junior. I was working hard. I wasn't really focused on college. I was just working to get back."

Diallo added he is rehabbing well.

He is receiving interest from Auburn, DePaul, Iowa, Marquette, NC State, UCLA, Virginia Commonwealth and West Virginia.

"[Diallo's] a great kid," Pitts said. "He soaks everything up like a sponge. [He's] a hard-working kid. The thing about him with the ACL we're trying to bring him along slow. Right now he's still about 80-percent. He had it about May [2012]. We're working him out about five, six days a week, and it's coming along really well, the progress in his ACL injury."

"We're expecting this year even bigger things from him, because by the time the season runs around he'll be 100-percent healed. What we're trying to focus in on is the injury, making sure he's 100-percent and making sure he stays on top of his school work. He's already great in the classroom."

Pitts, who is Diallo's guardian, said it is gratifying to see the progress the young big man has made since coming to QEA.

"You see a kid that came here in this country, didn't know the language, barriers with the diet, so he had to adjust," Pitts said. "Plus you got to do the school work and basketball, so that's been a big adjustment. Now, with Ibrahima you take that into account and then he has the injury. The kid has never been injured in his life, so psychologically it took a toll on him."

"But, to see him come from Point A to where he is I'm pleased with his progression. There's a lot of work we need to do, but I think he's going to be good. He's going to be great."

Wake has yet to show interest in Diallo; however, if the Demon Deacons decide to pursue him it might be advantageous for them to connect Arnaud Adala Moto with him since they have both experienced making the transition from Africa to the U.S.

"I've been watching their [Wake Forest] game(s) last year, and that's a pretty good school," Diallo said. "I'm looking for a good basketball program first of all, school-wise too. I like school. I like to work. School-work, I really like it. Actually my GPA is pretty high. I'm very focused on working on school too."

He hopes to choose a school in time for the early signing period in November.

Diallo's teammate, Ndaiye, came from Senegal to the United States about six months ago.

QEA and basketball have been the highlights for him since his arrival to the U.S.

"It's good, because I got teammates, [and] I got a good coach," Ndaiye said.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pounder is receiving interest from Clemson, DePaul, Florida, Georgetown, Marquette, NC State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

"He's a high major guy, big-time motor," Ndaiye said. "He's going to be a good one. His footwork is good. His skill-level is very high. He can catch everything, finish around the basket, and he's very unselfish. He's a complete player."

"He's progressing very good. English being his second language, so sometimes the language barrier gets there, but he's very smart, very coachable. He's like a sponge, soaking up everything about the game. This kid is going to be … he's top 10."

Ndaiye impacts games with his ability to rebound and defend. He is working to improve his ball-handling and shooting.


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