Recruits Remain Committed to UVa Program

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Pete Gillen’s departure will not deter UVa’s 2005 men’s basketball recruits – WF Mamadi Diane , PF Laurynas Mikalauskas and C Sam Warren – from fulfilling their commitments to the program. All three signed letters of intent in November of 2004 and remain intent on attending the University of Virginia this fall.

DeMatha Catholic’s (Hyattsville, MD) 6-6, 180-pound star Mamadi Diane was not happy to see coach Gillen go, but still looks forward to the opportunities he will have at UVa.

“Bluntly, he’s basically said that he’s very disappointed that he won’t be able to play for the coaches that recruited him, but going through the process he definitely chose the University of Virginia to attend as well as the coaching staff there,” DeMatha head coach Mike Jones said. “The fact is he chose the University of Virginia and the education he’s going to get there is not going to change without the coaching staff there. I think that’s really the most important thing to him and his family anyway, so he’s still fully committed and planning on attending the University of Virginia.”

A first-team Washington Catholic Athletic Conference performer this season, Diane averaged 13.4 points per game. DeMatha, which boasts a 27-1 record, finished with an undefeated conference record at 13-0 and a WCAC tournament title. Last week, he posted 20 points and 16 rebounds in DeMatha’s City Title game victory over Cardoza. DeMatha competes in its final tournament this week when it travels to the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament in Frostburg, Maryland.

Diane, who has easily qualified academically, contributed heavily to DeMatha’s outstanding season this year, and coach Jones expects him to contribute next year for UVa.

“I think Mo, which is what we call him, is very used to playing against high caliber players and with highly talented teammates,” Jones said. “I think he’ll come down there, he’ll find out what his role is on the team and he will play that role to the best of his ability. He’s not stranger to being on the floor with a lot of great athletes, so I think the adjustment period a lot of kids go through he won’t really go through.

“His strengths are that he’s a great athlete that works extremely hard. He’s become a great defender and he has become a great outside shooter. He’s always been able to attack the rim and make it to the basket when he wants to. He’s a great offensive rebounder and he’s gotten a lot better at ballhandling this year and in terms of being a vocal leader. Because he works so hard and because he already has those God-given abilities, his best basketball is still ahead of him… which is amazing because he’s pretty darn good now.”

According to Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA) head coach Bill Ramsey, 6-8 power forward Laurynas Mikalauskas still plans on attending UVa next year.

“Laurynas is still firm on his commitment to UVa and he is qualified, so it looks like all systems are go for him to be at UVa next year,” Blue Ridge head coach Bill Ramsey said. “He’s looking forward to finding out who the new coach will be. He was definitely fond of coach Gillen and was rooting for him, but he knew going into the season that coach Gillen had to get to the NCAA tournament to save his job so it wasn’t a surprise for him.”

Mikalauskas will join junior power forwards Jason Cain and Donte Minter, sophomore center Tunji Soroye and incoming freshman center Sam Warren in UVa’s frontcourt next year. He stepped up this season in the face of heavy attention from opposing defenses and looks to continue his progress on the next level.

“He averaged right around 22 points and 13 rebounds and two blocked shots per game,” Ramsey said. “He definitely was a better player this year. He had more attention but he was able to average more points and more rebounds even though people were double teaming him every night. He’s just got a better feel for the game. He’s steadily improved each year that he’s been here.”

Before the season began, Ramsey wanted to see improvement in Mikalauskas’ quickness this year. That is exactly what he saw.

“He’s quicker,” Ramsey said. “He’s definitely made progress and needs to continue that. He lost a little bit of weight this year. He played most of this year at 240 and played last year at 250 or sometimes 255. In the high school game, I think it was better for him to be quicker than bigger. And that made a difference – he was jumping quicker, he was blocking more shots and his team defense improved. He’s always been a good scorer but I think the most progress was his help-side defense and his ability to block shots. He blocked six shots in our last game against Paul VI.”

A good athlete, Mikalauskas “has a chance to be the best high jumper in the state in private schools” according to Ramsey. Mikalauskas has cleared 6-2 in practice before and 6-1 in competition.

6-10, 235-pound Cherry Creek (Denver, CO) center Sam Warren remains firmly committed to the UVa program as well.

“Sam’s very committed to Virginia,” Cherry Creek head coach Mike Brookhart said. “I know Sam was very comfortable with the old staff at the University of Virginia, and I’m sure he’ll be comfortable with the new staff.”

This season, Warren, who chose UVa over offers from Nebraska, Pepperdine, San Diego, Penn State and heavy interest from UCLA, averaged 6.3 points on 66% field goal shooting, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. In his first year coaching Warren, Brookhart sees a player with a lot of potential but who is still in the developing stages.

“He learned every day,” Brookhart said. “He came in and worked hard every day. What you see now is not what you’re going to see in two to three years.”

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