By LARRY VAUGHT
PADUCAH — DME Academy head coach Dan Mondragon was back in Kentucky for the second straight week with his team for Mustang Madness at McCracken County this weekend after participating in the Kentucky Lake Classic at Marshall County a week earlier.
Count him as a fan of basketball in Kentucky.
“From the hospitality at the hotels to the restaurants to the organization of the events. Even just fans showing support to us and telling our players good job after our games,” Mondragon said when asked about playing two events in Kentucky.
“We have played in some really good events, but these two have been the best ones from facilities and everything is first class. You can see why Kentucky loves their basketball and they have showed it in these two events. We are thrilled to be here and we hope we can keep coming back.”
He said his players have enjoyed everything about the trips to the Bluegrass.
“They are loving this. Any time they get to travel and spend quality time with their teammates, it is great,” the DME coach said. “You come to an event like these with facilities like they have and get to play opponents like we do, you can’t ask for more. I tell the guys to enjoy and not to forget to look around and enjoy. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and enjoy it all. They are definitely enjoying all this.”
One of those players is 6-10 sophomore Moussa Diabate, a top 10 player in the 2021 recruiting class. He had 30 rebounds in a game at Marshall County and had 12 points, nine rebounds and three steals in a matchup against UK signee Tyrese Maxey and South Garland (Texas) High School.
He had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Orangeville Prep Friday despite having just one point late in the first half.
“He does average a double-double but 30 rebounds was crazy that game,” his coach said. “One thing about him is that he plays with the same high motor every game. On a bad night you look at the stats and he has 16 points with 12 or 14 rebounds. No matter how bad a game it looks like he is having, he puts up those numbers because he just plays so hard. I hardly take him out of the game.”
This is Diabate’s first year to play on the wing and the sophomore, who is from France, is still working on his perimeter skills and shot.
“Once his perimeter skills catch up with the rest of his game, he’s going to be very, very special,” Mondragon said. “I think will just keep growing his game because he is one of those kids who will just keep getting better. Every day he is in the gym working. Once that perimeter shooting becomes consistent … he’s had games where he’s shot five 3’s and made them. Once his perimeter skills catch up to his motor and his size and frame, he’s going to be special. He’s going to be a blue-blood type of kid.”
He’s only been playing basketball about five years and is still just 16 years old.
“He is one of the nicest and most humble kids I have ever been around. It’s what makes him special. He doesn’t think he has all the answers. He wants to work,” Mondragon said. “Players that good, that highly ranked with that attitude don’t come around too often. He literally asks me every day what he can do to be better.”
He recently got a scholarship offer from Oklahoma to go with ones he already had from Miami, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Auburn.
“The blue bloods really don’t get involved until junior or senior year. By time he is a junior all the big programs are going to come around,” Mondragon said. “It’s just a matter of time before Kentucky and Duke start coming around because he’s that good.”