Landing Diallo would be major step forward for St. John’s

By Joseph Staszewski

Landing Cheick Diallo would be the exclamation point to the early success of Chris Mullin’s tenure as St. John’s men’s basketball coach.

The Johnnies legend was off to a flying start securing quality transfer and junior college talent before losing his first recruiting battle Monday. Former St. John’s-commit Brandon Sampson chose to go to LSU after decommiting from the Red Storm after the departure of former coach Steve Lavin. The Louisiana shooting guard is the No. 41-ranked played in the nation, according to Yahoo.

Diallo would be a bigger get with a biggest upside. He won’t come easy. The 6-foot-9 Our Savior New American forward is still undecided. He is the No. 7-ranked player in the country, according to Yahoo, and is coming off MVP performances in the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic All-Star games this month.

He declined talking about his college situation after scoring 26 points on 12-for-16 shooting and 11 rebounds in the Jordan game at Barclays Center Saturday. He said 300 people, including family, friends and schoolmates came to watch him play. The game being in Brooklyn made it extra enjoyable for Diallo.

“I’m excited to be in New York,” he said. “That’s my state. That’s where I live.”

St. John’s can only hope he feels that way with his recruitment. Mullin personally is getting in late with Diallo, who was being recruited by Lavin’s staff. Mullin’s assistant coaches however are familiar with Diallo, who also has offers from Kentucky, Kansas, Pittsburgh and Iowa State. Matt Abdelmassih and Barry Rohrssen recruited him at their previous jobs at Iowa State and Kentucky, respectively. They met with Diallo along with Mullin over the weekend, according to reports.

Taking him away from some of college basketball’s best programs would be quite an early coup for Mullin. NBADraft.net has Diallo projected as the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

What you get in Diallo is a pure athlete who is still learning the game of basketball. He just started playing in 2010, but his years as a soccer player growing up in Bamako, Mali, gives him the quickness and agility running the court that most players of his size and stage of development don’t have.

“Sometimes I get a foul, sometimes I get a steal so I can fast break and dunk it easy,” Diallo said. “That’s natural. I use to play soccer. That’s how I am so quick.”

Diallo has a constant motor. Reporters usually joke with him that he plays too hard in all-star games. He has a great touch around the basket, rebounds well and is a shot blocker.

Landing him would give St. John’s that program-changing piece to make the jump to national prominence a little quicker.

It can still happen in time without him. If Mullin gets Diallo to Queens, his job, or vocation as legendary coach Lou Carnesecca called it, gets that much easier. Now we wait to see if that’s the case.

Get Diallo and St. John’s future gets a little brighter, a little faster.

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