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.
Syracuse-Bound Moustapha Diagne Leads Pope John Into New Jersey Tournament of Champions
BY JEREMY FUCHS
TOMS RIVER, N.J. — There’s no postseason this year for the Syracuse men’s basketball team, but Moustapha Diagne, who will play on the Orange next season, is leading his team deep into the New Jersey state playoffs.
The 6-foot-9 Diagne led Pope John to a 71-35 beatdown of Christian Brothers Academy in the Non-Public A Final at the Pine Belt Arena. Diagne scored 10 points and had five rebounds in just 20 minutes of play and his team will next play in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions, which begins Wednesday.
Two years ago, Syracuse commit Tyler Roberson won the Tournament of Champions with Roselle Catholic.
While Roberson was a small forward, Diagne is a very polished power forward—smooth in the post, a good passer and a solid defender.
“Moustapha usually establishes himself in the post,” coach Jason Hasson said after the game. “He can guard every position. Moustapha really stepped up as a [vocal] leader.”
Diagne was helped by forward Jeromy Rodriguez, who scored 16 points, had nine rebounds and five assists and Fordham-bound guard Matt Zignorski, who added six points.
“I’m so happy,” Diagne told SNY.tv after the game
The Syracuse-bound forward did not play much in the second half due to foul trouble, although Pope John did not really need him, and there was no need to risk injury in a blowout. When on the floor, though, Christian Brothers had no one capable of stopping him.
“I just want to keep working on my game,” Diagne said. “I want to be ready when I get to college,”
Pope John will be a tough out in the Tournament of Champions, where they could be the No. 2 seed behind the St. Anthony/Roselle Catholic winner. They have a legitimate star in Diagne, a ferocious rebounder in Rodriguez, a sharpshooter in Zignorski, and a solid, do-all guard in junior James Scott, who added 16.
Hasson confirmed after the game that Rodriguez has offers from Fordham, St. Bonaventure, Iona, Niagara, Hofstra and Quinnipiac.
“He’s just an unbelievable player,” Hasson said.
Two members of Syracuse’s four-man class for 2015 come from New Jersey and the entire four-man class has said they plan to honor their National Letters of Intent despite the recent NCAA sanctions on the program.
Malachi Richardson, a McDonald’s All-American shooting guard out of Trenton Catholic, lost to Roselle Catholic in the South Non-Public B state playoffs and will not play in the Tournament of Champions. But with Diagne and Richardson, New Jersey will be represented well at Syracuse next season.
Pope John is one of the more complete teams in the country. Led by Diagne, they have the potential to make some noise next week.
Schedule for Tournament of ChampionsWEDNESDAY, MARCH 18Tournament of Champions quarterfinals at Pine Belt Arena — 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.FRIDAY, MARCH 20Tournament of Champions semifinals at Pine Belt Arena — 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.MONDAY, MARCH 23Tournament of Champions final at Sun National Bank Center — 8 p.m.Follow Jeremy on Twitter
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.