As the FIBA Under-17 World Cup unfolds in Malaga, Spain, I’m going to highlight some of the players that catch my eye. These aren’t meant to be hyper-critical of the players – partially due to their ages and development arcs – rather celebrate what they’re accomplishing in representing whatever country it may be.
Malick Diallo, representing the Republic of Mali, stood out over the first few days of the U17 World Cup.
He just turned 17 in May and will play at Wasatch Academy in Utah, where he’s regarded as a high-level prospect in the 2024 class with offers from BYU, Utah State, and UC Santa Barbara with additional recent consideration from other programs.
Wasatch Academy is one of now-10 schools across the country playing in the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC), which helps to standardize the highest level of players at the prep level. Other notable schools include defending GEICO National Champion Montverde Academy as well as IMG Academy, AZ Compass Prep, and Sunrise Christian.
The 6-foot-10 big with a 7-4 wingspan showcased all sorts of skill, smarts, and ferocity from the paint, helping his team to a 2-0 start before faltering against USA.
playing for 15th-ranked Mali:
Game 1: 65-56 W over #14 Slovenia: 19 points (8-15 FG, 3-3 FT), 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, and -13 in 36 minutes
Game 2: 93-48 W over #35 Lebanon: 14 points (6-9 FG, 2-5 FT), 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and +12 in 26 minutes
Game 3: 112-64 L to #1 United States: 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and -26 in 24 minutes
One of the first and easiest things to notice about Diallo’s game is that he dunks just about everything he can:
And he has a nice spin move that helps him get in position to do so, as well, similar to Toronto’s Pascal Siakam:
He only attempted one three over these two games, but previous evidence shows that he could be on a strong development arc from that standpoint as well.
Diallo starts to set himself apart when we look at the other things he does from the big position. Like 10 assists in 86 minutes are outlier-level stuff from a 6-10 17-year-old, and sometimes he’s able to turn the scoring gravity on the defense as he does here with that spin move before a dump-off pass to a fellow big:
Here he gets downhill after a screen action and passes out of a collapsed defense:
Mali’s offense is most potent when setting up their offense around Diallo’s playmaking, using him as a hub:
All of this would be for naught if Diallo couldn’t operate in space effectively because defenses could clog up passing lanes. He fights this by being one of the better movers-with-the-ball among all 6-10-or-above players in the tournament, and there are plenty of examples through just the first two games:
Defensively, it’s tough to get a good read for a few reasons.
Mali has a glut of talented bigs in addition to Diallo – like 6-10 Ladji Coulibaly and 6-9 Cheick Keita – that play alongside him, so oftentimes the weak-side helper will come in for a block, basically meaning that Mali’s rim protection is so stacked that it’s hard to gauge any individual playing within the scheme.
Also, FIBA is just so far from the sort of structure and game planning that Diallo will face with Wasatch in the NIBC that it may just be best to throw out most of the defensive tape from this tournament, as long as he shows enough promise where he can.
Diallo passes that baseline of physical tools – athleticism and length – with flying colors and shows some solid timing as well on this chase down:
In the third game against the much more difficult USA, he did showcase a few really solid defensive possessions, and when his impact was felt on that end, Mali was much more of a threat to upset USA than their 48-point loss of a result would indicate:
I’m excited to track Diallo’s growth, both over the course of this U17 World Cup and at Wasatch over the next couple of seasons, especially because he reminds me of Paul Reed when he was at DePaul, who I enjoyed thoroughly. That could be a good offensive skill set to be working toward for now for him, given the upside as both an initiator and hub.
Categories: NBA Draft