UVA’s Diakite chases championship with Bucks
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WWBT) - In 2019, Mamadi Diakite helped lead Virginia to a national championship as a junior. Now he’s looking to add an NBA championship ring to his collection during his rookie campaign.
Diakite takes the floor with the Milwaukee Bucks as they battle the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals beginning Tuesday. He joined the Bucks in March, after spending the first portion of the season in the G-League with the Lakeland Magic. The former Cavalier has appeared in seven postseason contests for Milwaukee, after seeing time in 14 regular season games.
John Marshall graduate and UVA assistant coach Jason Williford worked closely with Diakite during his college career. Williford is in charge of handling the Wahoo big men and he’s seen the power forward develop his potential into an NBA player.
“He worked extremely hard and he loved the game, he loved to compete,” the UVA assistant said. “He wanted to go against the best, play against the best and beat the best.”
Williford points to Diakite’s confidence and excitement on the court. Those are traits he possessed at the college level and he’s been enjoying his first year playing the game in the NBA.
“You see some of that energy and that exuberance when he gets in games,” smiled Williford, citing an instance where Diakite was assessed a technical foul, drawing laughs from the assistant coach’s sons. “He enjoys what he’s doing and he wants to compete.”
Free time is at a premium during the postseason, but Williford and Diakite have exchanged texts on a handful of occasions, including a conversation in which the player expressed nervousness about facing the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Still, he boasted confidence to his coach that his squad would persevere and reach the NBA Finals, which reminded Williford of a similar situation two years ago.
“I remember him doing the exact same thing when we were making our run,” he recalled. “He said ‘don’t you worry, we’re going to win it all,’ and low and behold, he makes that crazy shot (against Purdue in the Elite 8).”
Williford notes that having a player who used to sport the orange and blue is good for recruiting. Kids notice Diakite under the brightest lights on the biggest stage that professional basketball has to offer. As for Williford and the staff, they’ll enjoy watching him chase a championship.
“Hopefully he’ll be able to bring that trophy back here to Charlottesville and show it off if they win it all.”
Diakite is one of a number of former Virginia players in the NBA. Mike Scott (76ers) Joe Harris (Nets), Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers), Kyle Guy (Kings), Ty Jerome (Thunder) and De’Andre Hunter (Hawks) all suited up in the league this year.
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