Hokie Hoops Introduction: Cartier Diarra
With the 2020 Virginia Tech basketball season right around the corner, it is time to take a look at some of the new faces who are expected to make an early impact. While we still don’t know what a basketball season in 2020 will look like, we do know that whenever the season tips off, the Hokies roster will look a lot different than it did a year ago. The first newcomer to highlight has a track record of success and the potential to be a huge contributor right away: Kansas State graduate transfer Cartier Diarra.
Diarra arrives in Blacksburg after a career year at Kansas State. As a junior in 2019-2020, Diarra averaged 13.3 points per game, 3.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, as well as 1.8 steals. To put those numbers in perspective, Diarra was one of only seven players in the nation to average that stat line or better. Diarra also lead the Wildcats in assists 21 out of 32 games last season.
Putting the statistics aside, Diarra will fill a much-needed role in Mike Young’s offense: an on-ball initiator. With Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker departing after the 2018-19 season, the Hokies struggled to initiate offense off the dribble last season. While Wabissa Bede is fantastic on defense and a solid floor general on offense, he does not provide the isolation offense necessary to make a defense rotate late in the shot clock. In addition, with Landers Nolley transferring to Memphis, the Hokies are in need of an explosive isolation scorer. That is exactly what they are getting in Cartier Diarra.
When you watch the film on Diarra, he simply pops off the screen. An explosive athlete with a fearless mindset to scoring the ball, Diarra brings a slashers mindset to an offense filled with sharpshooters. His ability to beat a defender off the dribble or with a screen and get into the paint will open up the floor for guys like Jalen Cone, Hunter Cattoor, and Nahiem Alleyne.
Besides the offensive impact, Diarra will also provide a boost defensively and on the boards. The combination of Bede and Diarra has the potential to be a lethal defensive backcourt with the ability to turn defense into offense quickly. Additionally, Diarra’s height (6’4) and athleticism makes him an effective rebounder, which could allow Mike Young to continue to utilize three guard lineups.
Diarra’s skillset on both sides of the ball fills a huge need in year 2 of the Mike Young Era, and all signs point to this being a mutually beneficial 1-year relationship.