Standing at 6’10” with long arms and a frame that is still filling out, Assane Diop doesn’t play like a traditional big man. As a fluid open court player, Diop is comfortable grabbing the rebound and pushing the pace as a primary or secondary ball-handler while also using his size and passing instincts to set-up easy looks for teammates. Diop has a natural feel for the game that is rare to find in prospects who are new to the game (Diop just started playing the game competitively a few years ago).
A native of Senegal, Diop comes from a large family with several siblings and grew up around the game of soccer. After realizing basketball could be a way to help his family in the future, he opted to emigrate to the United States to pursue turning his dreams into reality. Since enrolling at Belleview Christian High School (CO) and participating in AAU events with the Colorado Hawks, Diop has continued to make the most of his opportunities and has picked up offers from multiple high-major college programs.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Diop discusses his unique background, provides an update on his current college interest, what motivates him, his playing style, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2023 prospect Assane Diop, originally from Senegal:
Pro Insight: Tell us about your background.
Assane Diop: My name is Assane Diop and I’m from Senegal, Africa and my family is from Senegal too. I came here [United States] for school and basketball, but I’m doing good. It’s fun here. I have like five brothers and two sisters. They stayed in Senegal, too — I just came here by myself.
PI: Do they play sports as well?
AD: Yeah, my older brother played basketball and [one of] my other brothers plays soccer, they both play soccer. My sister started playing basketball this week or this month — my father said she’s playing basketball now. I said ‘that’s good’ because we’re tall, my family...but they’ve got to focus on school first before coming here, you have to focus on school.
PI: How tall are other members of your family?
AD: Oh, I’m the tallest because my brother is 6’8” and I’m 6’10”, but my little brother I don’t know their height. My father is like 6’6” or 6’7”, my mom is 6’0”, and my grandfather before he died was like 7’0” or something. He was big, but we’re tall in my family.
PI: What has the adjustment been like coming from Senegal to the United States?
AD: I came here by myself in like January, so I’ve been here for about 10 months. It’s not very hard, but I’d say it’s just for motivation for my family. They are not starved, but we come here for playing or doing something that can help my family. It’s good for me and I think it's hard to live with somebody who is not your family, but we hang out every time, we live together. I think it’s just a family again.
PI: What do you miss most about Senegal?
AD: I miss my grandma a lot because like I wasn’t living with my mom, I lived with my grandma before. I miss her and she likes basketball, she likes all sports, but most soccer because my country loves soccer. She likes watching people, like she would ask me or Baye if we had any videos or something like that and I would say ‘go to YouTube, maybe there’s a video on there’ because sometimes people you don’t know will post a video of you so I would tell her to go on YouTube and write ‘Assane [Diop]’ and maybe some videos would come up. She likes to watch my videos and she got my Instagram, she checks all of my social media.
PI: What are your biggest strengths as a player?
AD: I am good at getting assists, but I have to focus on my basketball because today I learned it’s not like every player can do what I am doing. Every player I played today, they played one-on-one or something like that and what I like to do is pass and that’s hard to do when others don’t know how I play. They don’t know me and I don’t know them, but I’m just learning today and it’s good for me. (*note: interview was conducted at WCE Elite 100 Camp in Phoenix, AZ)
PI: How would you describe yourself as a player?
AD: Sometimes I think I’m going hard, but my father here [guardian in U.S.] sometimes says that I’m not going hard or playing hard on defense, but I want to go hard every time because I don’t like people thinking I’m bad or something like that. I want to play hard and improve myself.
PI: What’s the update with your recruitment?
AD: I’ve got offers from like Denver, Minnesota, Memphis, Illinois, and Florida State. I have five offers.
PI: Have any of them been pursuing you more than others?
AD: Yeah, sometimes I call the college coach to see what they have to say to me, like what I have to work on. They’re good, they’re free to me and I talk to them a lot.
PI: What are you looking for in a school of choice?
AD: I want a school who plays fast, I don’t want a place where they hog the ball, I want somewhere where they pass the ball every time. I don’t want people to stay and take their time or something, I want people going fast because how I play is fast. Just fast, fast every time. I think if I have to pick a school then I have to pick a school who plays fast.
PI: What position do you view yourself as?
AD: For real like I don’t know what position I have to play because I can dribble, shoot, and post up. I don’t know where I’m at now, but if I have a mismatch I use it. I just use the advantage I have, but if I have to pick a position then I’d say a power forward because I can set a screen and go and pop or roll.
PI: Any players you like to watch or model your game after?
AD: I like LeBron [James] so much, but I can’t play how he plays because I don’t copy people, I want to play like myself. Maybe somebody is copying me, but I don’t want to copy someone. I really like LeBron and Kyrie [Irving], too.
PI: What are some of your interests outside of basketball?
AD: I really like soccer because in Senegal after practice or something or at night you go and play soccer with the guys, but here we can’t do that because we have school and something like that. We have school in Senegal, but like it’s not the same here. Like you have to go to school and come back to practice and after practice you have homework every night. I have a lot of homework every night. It’s why I can’t go nowhere, I can’t hang out with nobody or something like that [laughs]. My parents say, ‘how do you feel here [in the United States]?’ and I say, ‘it’s hard because it’s not the same in Senegal,’ but I’m doing good. I have good grades. My parents don’t like that I’m just focusing on basketball, but it’s why I’m doing well in school, because if I don’t get a good grade then I cannot play or practice which is hard for me, that’s why I focus on school first before going to practice.
PI: How would you describe your personality?
AD: Sometimes I lose a ball on the court and I say, ‘wow I’m losing that ball’ and I know everybody loses balls, but I ask [myself], ‘why are you losing that ball? Go on defense again and take the ball.’ People say, ‘it’s O.K. you didn’t do nothing [wrong],’ and I say, ‘ok, ok,’ but I want to correct that [doesn’t want to get too down on himself for making mistakes].
PI: What is your biggest motivation or inspiration?
AD: For me I’d say my grandma or my mom, or all of my family. They all live together and it’s hard to live with a lot of people, like all of your family including your cousins and stuff like that. I want to have a house for my parents, that makes me motivated because sometimes you wake up and see all of the people you live with and say, ‘I have to leave.’ It’s hard to live with all sides of your family. My mom, she does everything for me. Sometimes she doesn’t have money and she tries to do something for me and make sure I have all I need for school or for basketball and that motivates me a lot. I think it’s all motivation.