“It’s not coach-driven,” Howard said on the 2021 class on media day. “That’s how they’re wired. They want it. It’s beautiful to see as a coach. Not only do they work hard, but they’re coachable.”
Diabate has a chance to be a star at Michigan. He will likely come off the bench to begin this season with Hunter Dickinson and Brandon Johns Jr. ahead of him, but he has a chance to be one of the Michigan’s best players.
Here’s what we know about Diabate now and what Michigan fans can expect from him.
The story so far
The incoming big man was the 16th ranked prospect and the fifth ranked power forward in the 2021 class, last playing for IMG Academy last season.
Diabate provides Michigan with lineup flexibility, as his position on the floor is fairly fluid. He possesses the skills to play the five while also playing alongside Dickinson in some lineups.
The young big man might be the best defender in the 2021 class for Michigan and should be able to guard multiple positions, giving Michigan a lot of defensive flexibility within the front court rotation.
Diabate moves quick laterally and is an incredible on-ball defender for his size who should be able to guard pretty much anyone 6-foot-6 and up in the Big Ten. He’s a vocal leader on defense as well; you can here him calling out switches and rotations in the clip below.
On offense, Diabate can score in the post and dominates the offensive glass, but also possesses the ability to take lumbering bigs off the dribble for an easy finish thanks to his length and quick first step.
Outlook for 2021-22
Diabate could be a Swiss Army Knife for the Wolverines this season, contributing as a role player on both ends of the floor. He will have to fight for minutes from Johns Jr. and Terrance Williams at the 4, and will likely split minutes at the 4 and 5 for the Wolverines.
Before conference play, Michigan should experiment with playing Diabate and Dickinson together, as Diabate’s defensive prowess and ability to knock down mid range jumpers could complement the All-American big man well.
Diabate said earlier this summer on the Defend the Block podcast he and Dickinson could be a dominant tandem for the Wolverines this season.
“I feel like we’re going to have a great tandem,” Diabate said. “I feel like, defensively, we’re going to be great, because post-wise, he’s a pretty good defender. And on the outside, at least I can switch. Let’s say, we need to recover — I can be the one to recover on a shot or even on a rebound; I can give great help, too, and hopefully be a great support for the team.”
While Dickinson has made it a point of emphasis to improve his foot speed on defense this season, Diabate can help him recover as a help side defender while giving the defense another talented big man to worry about on the offensive end.
The native Frenchman is a little more raw than Dickinson was coming out of high school, but Diabate’s athleticism and defensive IQ give him a chance to be just as dominant as Dickinson was last year in 2022 or 2023.
He may start out the season like Williams did last year, playing in a few minute bursts to prove himself and get his feet wet. But Diabate’s ceiling as a prospect is a bit higher than Williams. While he will likely contribute off the bench in most games this season, he has the potential to be a go-to guy for the Wolverines eventually.
You can never have enough big men in the Big Ten, and Diabate provides Michigan with another big body who can hold his own in the paint while being a versatile scorer. His ceiling is through the roof with the Wolverines. He has the potential to grow into Michigan’s best player, an All-Big Ten player and a possible NBA prospect.