When deciding on awards, numbers do not lie. When a player posts impressive numbers in the Nike EYBL, and also shatters every basketball "eye-test," it is likely they have worked themselves up to an elite status nationwide.
Team SCAN Cardinals center Cheick Diallo made that exact impression, and became an absolute force this year. Over the course of 16 games, Diallo was a treat to watch. The 6-foot-9 enforcer displayed improved skills across the board, partnering with fellow elite junior big man Thomas Bryant and cementing himself as a top five big man in his class.
If you are fortunate to watch Diallo play live, he emits an aura of defensive greatness that is different than anyone else in the league. He's the perfect blend of traits that basketball minds look for in an elite paint defender, combining length and athleticism with a top-notch basketball IQ.
Here are a look at Diallo's regular season defensive numbers:
Diallo improved in every statistical category from last season, recording 1.7 more rebounds, one more block per game, while doubling his steals average. He recorded a block in all 15 games played, highlighted by a six-block performance against King James. Diallo grabbed double digit rebounds in eight out of 15 games, and was the only player this season to record a 20-point, 20-rebound game.
His presence helped Team SCAN become the best defensive team in the EYBL, allowing 0.879 points per possession (Group Stats). His rebounding and shot-blocking achievements have marred perhaps his most impressive statistic. Diallo led EYBL centers in steals per game as well, causing turnovers 1.2 instances per game.
The impressive numbers can be tossed around all day, but that's not what sets Diallo apart from his peers. Diallo's presence effects the game before it begins. His defensive prowess requires a game-plan for the opposition, which needs to be followed or you risk the chance to be completely embarrassed in the paint.
To put it simply, Diallo changes the game without having to touch the ball. He gains confidence from his defense, and that translates into improvement on the offensive end. While "shots contested" isn't an official statistic, it's a sure-thing that Diallo would have led the league in this category. His patience and poise in the paint allow him to establish superior timing, and his athleticism gives him the bounce needed to block the second and third attempts.
Team SCAN heads into Peach Jam as one of the favorites. With Diallo manning their frontcourt like he did in the regular season, The Cardinals' chances of sending numerous squads packing is at an all-time high.