Travis Ford worked his Billiken magic once again, snagging yet another commitment from a recruit on an official visit. This time, Ford secured the commitment of Madani Diarra, a 6’10 center from St. Benedict Prep in Newark, NJ.
When reached for comment, Diarra said, ““I believe that St. Louis University is best place for me to receive a great education and improve my game. I am extremely excited to compete in the A10 and to begin this new journey. Go Blue.”
Diarra announced his commitment in a tweet saying he was “200% committed” to SLU. Diarra will help bolster a frontcourt that was in danger of looking thin after the departure of senior DJ Foreman. Diarra is a big body who is a good rebounder and has a nice post game, with the ability to step out to around 15 feet. He is extremely strong and profiles as another strong rim protector. Like Jimmy Bell, he is a center, which gives Travis Ford 3 pure frontcourt players in Bell, Diarra and Hasahn French. Sophomore KC Hankton and incoming freshman Terrence Hargrove Jr. will also likely see time in the frontcourt. Some highlights of Diarra from his sophomore year are below.
Diarra played on a stacked St. Benedict’s team that went 27-5 last season, so he’s used to winning. He was never a primary option for the Grey Bees, but was a vital member of the team with his size, rebounding and ability to do the dirty work. For a tough, physical team like the Billikens, a player like Diarra is a perfect fit.
With Diarra’s commitment, Travis Ford has one scholarship left to fill, and it will be interesting to see what he does with it, particularly with a strong 2020 class to recruit from as well. Ideally, Ford can get a grad transfer who can impact the team immediately and give a veteran presence. If not, I am in the camp that Ford should eat the scholarship so he has 2 to give for the class of 2020 and can snag a couple of players in the fall signing period.
As for the 2019 class, it is absolutely loaded. Hargrove Jr. is an explosive wing who lead East St. Louis to their first Illinois state championship, and his play there had many saying he was the most underrated player in Illinois and one of the most underrated in the country. St. Louis native Yuri Collins also went supernova in his state tournament, dragging St. Mary to the final almost singlehandedly, and showing an underrated scoring ability to go with his standing as one of the top 5 passers in the class of 2019. JUCO wing Javonte Perkins, also a St. Louis native, was one of the best scorers in junior college last year, while shooting over 40% from the arc. Gibson Jimerson had a fantastic year at Monteverde and proved himself to be a top 5 shooter in the country. Jimmy Bell played at Bella Vista Prep, one of the best prep schools in the country and notched a double double in the Grind Session Championship against LaMelo Ball. A-10 fans are already veryfamiliar with Mike Lewis II and what he can do, and now Diarra is added to the mix.
Ford’s 2019 class is really remarkable. He has 7 commitments and almost all of them have at least one elite skill. That’s incredibly difficult to do even at a blue blood. For Ford to do it at SLU is very exciting and bodes well for the Billikens. All of Ford’s recruits nicely complement the nucleus of French, Jordan Goodwin, and Fred Thatch Jr, and set Saint Louis up to be the sleeper team in the A-10 after getting to the NCAA Tournament.