Fall semester classes at Fresno State will start on Thursday likely without Assane Diouf, a skilled 7-foot-1 center from Senegal and the DME Academy in Florida who is the big prize in coach Justin Hutson’s first recruiting class.
Diouf when committing to Fresno State reclassified to the Class of 2018 from 2019 but he had to complete summer course work to get there – and he’s now awaiting word from the NCAA eligibility center on his status for the 2018-19 academic year.
“He was a ’19 guy trying to make it to ’18 and he was a very highly recruited guy for ’19 and then once they found out it was ’18 he started getting very highly recruited,” Hutson said. “He’s a Bulldog through and through, but he’s under review right now.
“He has been doing great all summer, working hard in the classroom and with basketball. We were hoping that he would be here and he’s not yet.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
If he makes it into school, Diouf in 2018-19 will be a key piece for the Bulldogs, who have a shortage of bigs on the roster after Bryson Williams joined former Fresno State coach Rodney Terry as a transfer to Texas-El Paso and Eric Vila opted to play in Europe.
“He is a big piece, because we want to have some depth,” Hutson said. “He’s a huge piece.”
The only 4s (power forward) on the roster are 6-8 junior Nate Grimes, 6-6 senior Sam Bittner and 6-11 sophomore Lazaro Rojas, who has played a total of 17 minutes in eight career games. The Bulldogs do not have a true center on the roster, though Rojas can play 4 or 5 (center).
Diouf, who signed with Fresno State in April, is a raw but highly regarded prospect. He was starting to generate recruiting interest in the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference when he committed to Fresno State.
“He has big upside,” said DME coach Daniel Mondragon, after Diouf signed a national letter of intent. “When he came to us he was more raw than he is now. He improved a lot in a year with us. I think the biggest thing with him was basketball IQ stuff, specifically in man-to-man coverage. I don’t think he was taught that before. When he came to us he only knew how to sprint back and get in the middle of a 2-3 zone.
“We spent a lot of time with him learning how to guard pick-and-rolls and plugging pick-and-rolls, containing ball handlers when they’re coming at him. He showed flashes in certain games where he’s a lot more agile than he looks and can be a real presence at protecting the rim.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada