For the University of Virginia basketball fans who were still checking social media at 11:21 p.m. Thursday, it was worth the wait.
That’s when postseason hero Mamadi Diakite revealed that he would be returning to UVa for a final season of college eligibility.
“I am excited to announce that, after testing the waters and getting great exposure and encouraging feedback, I have decided to return to the University of Virginia for my senior year,” Diakite said.
“I can’t wait to join my coaches and teammates and get to work as we try to win another one.”
Apparently, he was referring to the 2019 NCAA national championship won by the Cavaliers with a cast that included three underclassmen—De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy—who subsequently passed up their remaining seasons of college eligibility.
Diakite, redshirted as a freshman by the Cavaliers in 2014-15, will be entering his fifth year in the program.
Listed at 6 foot 9 and 228 pounds, Diakite played in all 38 games for the Cavaliers (35-3) last season and made 22 starts.
He led the team with 63 blocked shots—nobody else had more than 25—and will be the top returning scorer at 7.4 points per game.
Regardless of his statistics, Diakite earned a place in UVa laurels when his jump shot as time expired forced an overtime in the South Region final between the Cavaliers and Purdue.
Virginia went on to win 80-75 in overtime, as Diakite finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 42 minutes.
Originally from the west Africian country of Guinea, Diakite went to high school at Blue Ridge School, located near Charlottesville.
One of his coaches was Cade Lemcke, a basketball letterman at UVa from 1999-2000.
Lemcke, his wife and three children have served as a surrogate family for Diakite, who spoke to Lemcke on Wednesday afternoon while driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas following a workout for NBA scouts.
“I know that he talked to his parents, too,” Lemcke said. “Graduation from the university is something his parents had harped on, but he was going back and forth as late as [Wednesday] afternoon.”
Lemcke praised Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett and his staff for the way they assisted Diakite and also mentioned former UVa player Mamadi Diane, a graduate student with African roots with whom Diakite has bonded.
Lemcke gave a thumbs-up to Diakite’s agent, Gary Durrant.
“Mamadi’s ceiling is still so much higher,” Lemcke said. “He can take what he’s learned, come back to school as a leader and have a great senior season.”