When it came to discussing Mohamed Diarra, the operative word was patience.
While he was billed as the nation’s top JUCO prospect last spring, Diarra’s skillset and experience didn’t align with a 6-foot-10 frame that most assumed marked him as a traditional post player. Once he arrived from Garden City Community College, the Frenchman would have to spend most of his time acclimating to the high-major game and role where he had little on-court experience.
So, despite that lofty status, it was practical to keep expectations in check. Diarra might emerge as a competent reserve in Dennis Gates’ rotation if all went well. And by midseason, Diarra had moved into Missouri’s rotation and shown modest flashes of what he might be once fully settled.
Now, Diarra will try to make good on that potential elsewhere.
On Tuesday, he became the first Missouri player to enter the transfer portal, moving on after a season that saw him average 3.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and shoot 40 percent from the floor. His best outing came on Jan. 24 at Ole Miss, a road trip that saw Diarra post 11 points and six rebounds in the Tigers’ 12-point victory.
Shortly after word of Diarra’s decision filtered out, Gates confirmed the move and wished the big man well at his next stop. It would also appear the separation is an amicable one.
I just want to say Thank You to MOHAMED DIARRA for his contributions to our program & institution under my leadership! Once a MIZZOU Tiger, always a MIZZOU Tiger! We love you & I am here if you need me! May the portal be w/you!— Dennis Gates (@coachdgates) March 28, 2023
The departure also comes as Gates and his staff have explored several options to upgrade a frontline that was among the smallest at a high-major program. MU also ranked 362nd nationally in keeping opponents off the offensive glass, allowing the most putback attempts per game.
While possessing the stature of a prototypical big, Diarra also spent ample time outside the lane in MU’s switch-heavy scheme. Even if opponents didn’t attack Diarra in those situations, it took him away from ideal rebounding positions. And even if Diarra’s own rebound rates were respectable, SEC foes saw their offensive rebounding improve by 2.3 percentage points with him on the floor, per Pivot Analysis lineup data. Meanwhile, Diarra’s rim finishing, which checked in at 0.87 points per possession, was also well below the Division I average.
Yet those metrics only underscore a central theme passed along by scouts: Diarra would need time. There are still several seasons left for Diarra to reach his potential. But, unfortunately, his developmental timeline might not align with the pace of Gates’ rebuild.
As for Mizzou’s scholarship situation, the situation remains fluid. If Mabor Majak remains on scholarship, the Tigers would be over the NCAA allotment. If not, the Tigers are parked at the limit, assuming Kobe Brown and Isiaih Mosley remain in the fold. Earlier today, Sam Snelling reviewed the math and game theory. Essentially, Diarra and newly added transfer John Tonje passed the baton.