Just days before college basketball’s early signing period starts, Michigan received some unexpected news.
It came in a pledge from Moussa Diabate, a 6-foot-10 forward from Florida’s IMG Academy who became the second five-star prospect to commit to Juwan Howard and the Wolverines over the span of 11 days.
“It’s not that he picked Michigan that’s the huge surprise,” Eric Bossi, 247Sports national basketball director, said Monday. “It’s just that it happened a lot faster than anyone expected it would.”
Moussa Diabate (Photo: John Jones, Getty Images)
According to Bossi, Diabate kept his recruitment close to the vest. There wasn’t much information trickling out through the spring and summer indicating if he was leaning toward any schools. By all accounts, most anticipated Diabate would make his commitment sometime in the winter, at the earliest.
But Bossi noted Michigan had been in good shape with Diabate and the Wolverines emerged as a top contender over the past couple weeks. That standing helped Howard lock up Diabate — who held offers from Florida State, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland and Memphis, among others — and keep Michigan’s recruiting momentum rolling.
“I think the biggest thing is for the last couple years we’ve been looking at Moussa as a guy who was maybe more prospect than finished product,” Bossi said. “He had the size, the length, the athleticism, but maybe not consistent production. Seeing him here most recently (in past couple weeks) he’s gotten stronger, which is a huge key. He’s developed a couple go-to moves around the basket. He can now face up and put the ball on the floor.
“I think this summer wasn’t ideal for a lot of people, but he really got a chance to be in the gym and just focus on his overall skill set. The proof is in the pudding and it really showed. He’s a guy who’s proving why he’s a top-20 type player in the country now.”
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Diabate, who hails from France, is ranked the No. 20 overall recruit and No. 6 power forward in the nation, per the 247Sports composite. He’s part of a talented roster at IMG Academy, where he plays alongside fellow five-star bigs Efton Reid and Charles Bediako, who also hold Michigan offers, and Howard’s son Jett, a top-50 recruit in the 2022 class.
Bossi projects Diabate to be someone who can play at the four and five positions at the college level. While he isn’t necessarily a forward who will be counted on to consistently stretch out defenses as a perimeter shooter, he’s an inside-out player who will be able to create different kinds of problems with his ability to attack opposing big men with one or two quick dribbles to the rim.
Brian Snow, a basketball recruiting analyst for 247Sports, described Diabate as a long, tough big who has impressive physical tools. But what stands out to Snow is Diabate’s defensive versatility.
“He can play all over the court,” Snow said. “You would hope he’s got the ability to guard maybe a wing in a switch situation then a power forward and even a center given how big he is. I think that’s where a lot of people look and are very excited about what he can do because he’s got so much ability on that end of the floor.”
With freshman Hunter Dickinson set to be the only center on Michigan’s roster in 2021-22, Snow noted Diabate is the type of player who help cover up a some of Dickinson’s defensive deficiencies as a plus rebounder and shot blocker.
Bossi added Diabate’s addition will give Michigan an “interesting one-two punch” in its future frontcourt with Dickinson, who’s a skilled interior player known for his low-post scoring and passing.
“They are completely opposite style players,” Bossi said. “Hunter is a big, rugged, throwback, traditional Big Ten big man whereas Moussa is more of that new-age guy who can get out in some space, put the ball on the floor a little and defend multiple positions.”
Diabate’s announcement comes less than two weeks after five-star forward Caleb Houstan committed on Oct. 30 and vaulted Michigan’s 2021 class to No. 1 in the nation. The two highly regarded prospects headline a star-studded, six-man cast that includes four-star guards Frankie Collins and Kobe Bufkin, four-star wing Isaiah Barnes and three-star forward Will Tschetter.
Diabate and the rest of Michigan’s commits can make their pledges official on Wednesday, when the weeklong early signing period begins, and seal the deal as a part of Howard’s second stellar recruiting haul.
“I don’t think anyone could’ve reasonably expected (Howard) to be coming in and having a No. 1-ranked recruiting class in his second year,” Bossi said. “By that token, he’s exceeding expectations and I don’t think it would be fair to expect him to have a No. 1 class every year.
“But looking at guys he was involved with in his first year on the job, the guys he’s been involved with this year and the guys he has gotten this year and last year, clearly he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trail. I don’t think this is a two-year wonder by any means.”