Ohio State men's basketball power rankings: No. 9 Ibrahima Diallo

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra

Ohio State will open its 2020-21 men's basketball season by traveling to South Dakota to participate in the Crossover Classic. The three-day event that takes the place of the Battle 4 Atlantis will see the Buckeyes face Memphis on Nov. 25 in what will be the first Ohio State game in 262 days. The hope is to play a 27-game season that will include 20 Big Ten games and lead into a conference and then NCAA Tournament amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In preparation for an unprecedented start to the season, The Dispatch is counting down with power rankings for each member of the Ohio State roster.

These rankings are an educated guess at which players will have the most significant on-court impact during the course of the entire season.

No. 9 – Ibrahima Diallo

Position: Center

Class: Sophomore

Height/weight: 6 feet 10 / 220 pounds

Jersey number: 15

Background: A native of Senegal, Diallo came to the United States to play basketball. After transferring from Bradenton (Florida) Victory Rock Prep to Napa Valley (California) Prolific Prep as a senior, he caught the attention of the Ohio State coaching staff with a standout performance in the annual Flyin’ to the Hoop event in Dayton (he had 20 points and 14 rebounds)  and eventually became the final member of the 2019 recruiting class. Physically imposing but raw, Diallo was viewed as a project with upside, ranked as the No. 369 player in the nation and the No. 64 center according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings. As a senior, he averaged 11 points, 11 rebounds and around 4 blocks in 10 games before being sidelined by a hand injury.

Need to know: Diallo is extremely well-liked among his teammates, and the coaches have described him as a person people naturally gravitate toward. After leaving his home country in 2016, he did not return until the fall of 2019 when he surprised his mother with a visit and captured the moment on video. Height runs in the family: his father is 6-10, his mother is 6-feett tall and he has a grandfather who is 7-feet tall. Diallo is one of seven children in his family. Cincinnati shooting guard Zach Harvey is a friend, as is Mawot Mag, who will be a freshman at Rutgers this season. He took official visits to Ohio State and Pittsburgh, and while on his visit to see the Buckeyes he spent time with Greg Oden. His primary recruiter was Mike Schrage, who is now the head coach at Elon University. On his first day on campus, Diallo got lost and needed a campus police officer to give him a lift to practice.

2019-20 recap: On a team anchored by junior Kaleb Wesson, who earned second-team all-Big Ten honors at the center position, Diallo saw minimal playing time. His 40 minutes were the second-fewest on the team, ahead of just sophomore walk-on Harrison Hookfin, as he appeared in eight games. Diallo scored 10 points and had nine rebounds for the season, most of which came in a blowout win against Stetson in the fourth game of the season. In 14 minutes against the Hatters, Diallo had six points and five rebounds. He made three appearances totaling four minutes in Big Ten play and scored two points.

2020-21 outlook: There is an opportunity for Diallo to have a role as more than just an end-of-bench player this season. The question is whether or not he’s ready yet to step into it. With Wesson gone, Diallo is the most prototypical center on the roster and would certainly see important minutes if he was ready for the challenge.

“Things have slowed down for Ibrahima a little bit,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said prior to the start of preseason camp. “He’s in a little bit better shape than what he was. I think the biggest thing is his ability to pick up things in practice and things we’re asking him to do has come quicker because he’s been a year in our system. That was maybe the biggest impediment to his growth last year.”

It’s hard to envision Diallo making a leap from a player who totaled 40 minutes of playing time to suddenly a guy who can hold down 20 minutes per game in a league like the Big Ten. Yet, without Wesson, the center position looks to be primarily manned by senior Kyle Young and sophomore E.J. Liddell, both of whom could realistically be expected to log minutes at power forward as well. If Diallo can use his size and physicality to his advantage, it’s reasonable to expect him to log six to eight minutes per game to either give the Buckeyes a different look or just provide some additional size down low.  

Additional reading:

Who's new to the Buckeyes: Ibrahima Diallo

Ibrahima Diallo commits to Ohio State

Ohio State men's basketball players made the most of time back home

Previous power rankings:

No. 10 – Zed Key Jr.

No. 11 – Gene Brown III

No. 12 – Jimmy Sotos

No. 13 – Harrison Hookfin

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy