How Big Is Mamadi Diakite’s Return For Virginia?

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Mamadi Diakite is coming back for his senior year.
Mamadi Diakite slams home a dunk against Louisville. ~ Mike Ingalls

During the final few days of waiting for Mamadi Diakite’s decision, there was plenty of time to consider how his choice between returning to UVA and going pro could impact the Virginia basketball roster. Long-time radio show host Jay James asked that very question on the Best Seat in the House early last week.

The premise of the question took on phrasing along the lines of “How big would Diakite returning be for the Hoos?” My answer: big isn’t a big enough adjective. Diakite, who announced that he will return to Virginia late Wednesday night, is a major, massively advantageous addition to the roster for 2019-2020 season. Some, certainly, and particularly opposing fans, may disagree with that assertion. Considering UVA’s emphasis on defense and the increased use of ball screen offense, however, Diakite’s presence will provide a significant boost.

First, the defensive end. Experience has shown to be a key to individual consistency within the Cavaliers’ scheme and Diakite obviously brings a lot of it to the table. He has logged 1,810 minutes already in his career. As Diakite’s skill level and development have progressed, that number has grown. Last year when he appeared to turn a corner with that process, in fact, he nearly doubled his career minutes. He played 981 in his first two seasons and then piled