Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Moustapha Diagne Puts Syracuse Turmoil Aside, Leads Pope John to Non-Public North A Title
BY JEREMY FUCHS
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — You could’ve forgiven Pope John senior forward Moustapha Diagne for being distracted. After all, the Syracuse-bound Diagne has had to deal with the turmoil surrounding his future school and the prospect of reduced scholarships and perhaps diminished chances at winning.
But the 6-foot-9 Diagne didn’t seem fazed Wednesday night at the Rutgers Athletic Center, when he scored 18 points and had 11 rebounds as Pope John XXIII beat Seton Hall Prep 52-42 to win the New Jersey North Non-Public A title.
“I just focus on my senior season,” Diagne said after the game.
Pope John coach Jason Hasson confirmed that Diagne is signed with Syracuse, has his scholarship intact, and will be a member of the Orange next season.
Despite being on the receiving end of a lot of contact, Diagne was composed and smooth in the post. The combination of Diagne and Jeromy Rodriguez, who scored 11 points and had a whopping 17 rebounds, was enough to overcome the valiant performance of T.J. Gibbs. Gibbs, the brother of Seton Hall star guard Sterling Gibbs, scored 11 points and had four assists, despite dealing with a 103 fever and vomiting at half time.
“Just trying to do what the team needed me to do,” Gibbs said after the game. “Trying not to think about it.”
Gibbs, who looked appropriately drained after the game, was dominant at times, flashing on a coast-to-coast lay-up at the end of the third quarter to bring Seton Hall within three. More of a slasher than his brother, the junior guard will make one college coach quite happy.
Syracuse will be getting a polished big man in Diagne, who should flourish despite the scandals surrounding the progrm. Despite being berated down low, Diagne told reporters that his focus was on beating double-teams. Other than a few turnovers and one play down the stretch where he stepped out of bounds on the baseline, Diagne finished his shots and showed a variety of advanced post moves.
Pope John (28-3) is a balanced team, with Fordham-bound Matt Zignorski scoring seven points and James Scott adding 11. Zignorski, who hit a few threes from NBA-range, was confident in his team’s ability.
“We’re going to win a state championship this year,” Zignorski said.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.