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Pitt Strongly in the Mix for Chiekh Mbacke Diong



Kevin Stallings and staff hosted a big man with vast potential over the weekend when 2017 Florida Prep Academy center Cheikh (pronounced CHIK) Mbacke Dione (6-foot-10 inches, 210 pounds) completed an official visit to Pitt. Coaches and teammates have truncated his name to Mbacke.

Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with Florida Prep Academy assistant coach Pete Munch on Friday to gain perspective on Mbacke. He described the native of Senegal as “a special kid” and he added, “He’s got that ‘it’ about him off the court that really helps him on the court.”

Coach Munch was contacted to discuss the official visit and Mbacke’s initial impression of Pitt. From all indications, the official visit was a tremendous success.

“Mbacke loved it. He really enjoyed his visit to Pitt. He hasn’t seen anything like it,” he said. “He loved the game, meeting the team and he got to know the coaching staff a lot better. Mbacke is very excited about Pitt and I know the staff is equally excited. Pitt needs size and they offer him an opportunity to contribute as a freshman.”

Mbacke visited with his guardian. Coach Munch was asked about his guardian’s impression of Pitt and he replied, “He was equally impressed with the visit.”

Is Mbacke ready to commit to Pitt? “He’s going to take at least one more visit. At the moment, we have three games left this season. He will finish the season and take at least one more visit,” said Munch. “He will be visiting UNLV for sure. No other visits have been locked down at the moment.”

Iowa State, DePaul, UNLV, Florida Golf Coast, Louisville and Connecticut have offered Mbacke a scholarship. Louisville asked him to attend prep school for a year before they would add him to their 2018 recruiting class. Coach Munch mentioned that scenario is “highly unlikely” to happen.

For quite some time, Pitt has been a basketball team in desperate need of size and the lack of a true center has forced a number of players to play out of position. A pair of 6-foot-10 players have already joined the Panthers’ 2017 recruiting class: 6-foot-10 inch, 235 pound Peace Ilegomah from Montverde (FL) Academy & 6-foot-10 inch, 225 pound Terrell Brown from the Tilton School (NH). Mbacke, like Brown, would add a player with position versatility and could accrue significant minutes at power forward and center next season.

My thoughts: Mbacke will take one more visit to UNLV. Based on the discussions I have had, I don’t believe he will add a third official visit. I believe his final decision will come down to the Panthers and Running Rebels. Pitt offers immediate playing time in the best conference in the nation. I like the Panthers’ chances. Although I have yet to speak with Mbacke (he doesn’t have a phone), I have had several conversations with the Panthers’ 6th verbal commitment Peace Ilegomah. Ilegomah, originally from Nigeria, is an exceptionally bright, mature and engaging young man. I can easily see Ilegomah assuming a mentor like role with Mbacke, a player that only recently turned 17-years old.

If the Panthers are fortunate to land the services of Mbacke, Pitt assistant Kevin Sutton will undoubtedly attempt to double-dip and secure the services of 2018 Florida Prep Academy big man Lahat Thioune (6-foot-11-inches, 210 pounds). Mbacke and Thioune are close friends and training partners.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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