From Spain to the NCAA Tournament, Guillermo Diaz Graham Continues to Grow in First Season at Pitt
DAYTON, Ohio – “It’s just surreal,” Guillermo Diaz Graham said.
Guillermo and Jorge Diaz Graham came to Pitt amongst a jam-packed recruiting class featuring veterans Nelly Cummings, Blake Hinson, and Greg Elliott and were overshadowed by four-star freshman Dior Johnson in early anticipation of the 2022-23 season. Mixed in with a local product – Cummings from Lincoln Park – and other players searching for an opportunity, the Diaz Graham brothers traveled the 3,628-mile journey from the Canary Islands, Spain, to South Oakland for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Now? Everyone knows their names.
The Panthers begin the 2023 NCAA Tournament Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, participating in the First Four as a No. 11 seed facing Mississippi State. Guillermo’s debut season has been a surreal experience for him, soaking in the opportunity and not letting the moment pass him by.
“We would never imagine ourselves being here right now,” Guillermo said. “Now we have this opportunity. Have fun and enjoy it. Enjoy the moment and enjoy every we have.”
When coming to Pitt – previously playing at IMG Academy in Florida – Guillermo originally anticipated he would learn from others and mold into a role for seasons to come. To become as big a contributor he has was something even Guillermo didn’t see coming.
“No,” Guillermo said. “To be honest, I would never imagine that. I thought this year was going to be a transition year of me getting better in practice and not playing that much, not having that much importance. But I’m just grateful I got the opportunity, and everything is working good.”
The 7-foot freshman scored a career-high 14 points in Pitt’s ACC Tournament loss to Duke. The Panthers have a chance to return to Greensboro Friday in the Round of 64 facing No. 6 Iowa State. Guillermo’s season totals – 3.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 10 minutes per game – do not tell the full story regarding his growth and development throughout the season, especially down the stretch. A large lesson he learned came from watching Hinson, the Panthers’ top three-point shooter, fail to waver after missing a few shots but maintaining the same mentality. One major takeaway for him involves staying positive and appreciating everything around you.
“Enjoy every moment and play with all your heart,” Guillermo said. “Go out there and do your best. If you make a mistake, never put your head down. That’s something I used to do a lot. Every time I made a mistake, I would put my head down.”
A large lesson he learned came from watching Hinson, the Panthers’ top three-point shooter, fail to waver after missing a few shots but maintaining the same mentality.
“I see these guys, they of course make mistakes because we all do but they keep going. Maybe Blake is not shooting well and then he makes four in a row. That’s something watching him that, I’m like ‘today’s not his day’ then he makes four in a row’… I want to be like him.”
Jorge plays a similar number of minutes (9.3) and has totaled both 15 blocks and steals in 28 games, including one start. He can also shoot the three-ball at a 34% clip (11-of-32).
“College basketball is very similar to basketball overseas,” Jorge said. “It’s organized basketball… The physicality is maybe higher here in the U.S. but it’s pretty similar.”
Guillermo noted the ‘level of grind’ is more difficult in the United States than overseas. He is pleased with what he has accomplished in his young college career but is far from satisfied.
There’s still a lot of work to do,” Guillermo said. “I’m happy, but I’m still putting my head down and working. Happy but hungry.”