Friday, April 24, 2015

Hamidou Diallo, Mamadou Diarra intriguing prospects -- right in UConn's backyard

Putnam Science Academy is a small, private school located in the northeast corner of Connecticut that is home to two highly-coveted prep basketball prospects -- Mamadou Diarra, a 6-foot-8 Class of 2016 power forward, and Hamidou Diallo, a 6-5, Class of '17 swingman.

Recently, it was announced that the school will be closed down next month for at least the next two years, due to a lack of funding. However, the basketball program will be absorbed by Woodstock Academy, a CIAC school located only about 10 minutes up the road.

The CIAC may not be overjoyed by the move -- it's monitoring the situation -- but there's little doubt that UConn is happy about the fact that two of its coveted recruits are remaining only about a half-hour away from Storrs.

UConn likes Diarra, and the feeling is mutual.

"I know Mamadou has said that UConn has always been his dream school," said Putnam coach Tom Espinosa.

Minnesota, VCU, Seton Hall, St. John's and Kansas State are among the schools that have offered Diarra. He'll start lining up his official visits for the fall pretty soon.

But UConn really likes Diallo. Of course, so do dozens of other programs, including Providence, Iowa State and Temple, among others. At the PSA gym on Wednesday night, UConn (Glen Miller), Providence (assistant Brian Blaney, George's son), Syracuse (assistant Gerry McNamara), Dayton (head coach Archie Miller) and VCU  (new head coach Will Wade) gathered to watch an open gym with Diallo and Diarra.

Diallo and Diarra both hail from Queens. Both attended UConn's First Night festivities last October.

"It's wide-open for both of them, to be honest," Espinosa said of the duo's recruitment. "They're both good kids. The best thing for both of them was getting out of the city."

Espinosa will take his three returning players -- Diallo, Diarra and Brandon Hurst, a Class of '17 guard from East Hartford who is more of a Division 2/3 prospect -- with him to Woodstock, where he was recently hired as assistant athletic director. He's in the process of recruiting numerous other players to fill out the team, which will be recognized as a postgrad team (none of the players on Woodstock's current roster will play for this team. Woodsock's main varsity team will remain in the CIAC). Any player recruited to play basketball for Espinosa's postgrad team at Woodstock can't play any other varsity sport, unless Woodstock decides to offer other postgrad sports. For example, Diallo, Diarra or Hurst can't play track or baseball, etc., at Woodstock, unless the school begins a new program similar to what it's doing with basketball.

Espinosa's team will remain an independent but play all of the NEPSAC teams next winter and have a chance to compete for the national prep championship.

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