WHEELING, W.Va. – Before No. 8 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) kicked off its season back in November, Pilots star P.J. Washington warned us that he was coming.
“I’ve got a teammate named Lamine Diane,” Washington told USA Today back in September. “Not too many people know about him, but, trust me, he’s nice!”
More than 20 games into the season it’s clear that, if the whole basketball player thing doesn’t work out, Washington may have a future in scouting.
In just his second season in the U.S., Diane, a 6-foot-7 wing, has more than tripled his scoring average from last year from five points per game to 16 this season.
“I think I just feel more confident,” said Diane, a senior. “I think the difference is that we had some players graduate and now I have the chance to play more.”
Diane, who hails from Senegal, gave a preview of what we were in store for back in August when he led the prestigious adidas Nations event in scoring, averaging 28 points per game.
Prior to adidas Nations, Diane only had one offer from Southern Utah.
Since then he’s picked up Baylor, Missouri, California and UNLV.
Diane had 19 points and seven rebounds in a 78-62 win over then-No. 5 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) on Dec. 21 and last week at the Cancer Research Classic, Diane was named MVP after scoring 20 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists in a 99-78 win over First Love Christian (Washington, Pa.). He was named to the all-tournament team at the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions last weekend in Springfield, Mo., averaging 19 points per game.
“The style of play that I coach, pressing, getting out in transition, fast pace, really emphasizes his strengths,” Findlay Prep coach Paul Washington Sr. said of Diane. “He’s really good and I think he’s just starting to scratch the surface of what he can be.”
Diane knew that he’d have to improve on his speed and strength to make an impact this season; coming up he watched his father Keletigui Diane star professionally in Senegal. Keletigui also played for Senegal’s national team.
“He was a forward, but I don’t think he was better than me,” Diane joked. “I love the style of play over here because everything is running up and down the court. It’s not as fast over in Senegal. I just work on trying to get better in every game that I play.”
P.J. Washington has seen marked improvement for Diane on and off the court.
“When he first got here I think the only two words he knew were yes and no,” Washington said. “He’s long, athletic, he can defend, he can shoot and he has a high IQ. People just don’t know about him like that, but I think if they did he’d be considered one of the best players in the country.”
Be that as it may, Diane hasn’t been in the U.S. long enough to build the desire to pursue that title; his focus it twofold: Helping the Pilots win and constantly improving his overall game.
“I came to the United States for a better opportunity,” Diane said. “To study and to play basketball. I’m working hard on both of those things. I know being here is a big chance for me and I want to make the best of it.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY