Cheick Diallo, who traveled halfway around the world from his home in Mali, West Africa, to New York City on Valentine's Day, 2012, will travel halfway across America to play college basketball.
Diallo, the nation's No. 7-ranked recruit according to ESPN, announced Tuesday that he will attend Kansas, ending a lengthy recruiting process for the 18-year-old senior who will graduate in June from Our Savior New American in Centereach.
"I felt like Kansas was the best place for me," Diallo told Paul Biancardi, ESPN's national recruiting director for high school boys basketball.
Diallo also posted his decision on Twitter. "I can earn playing time right away . . . I need to work on a lot of things and feel coach [Bill] Self can help my game. On my visit, the campus was great and the people were nice. I could see myself there."
Diallo, a 6-9 power forward, also had been heavily courted by new St. John's coach Chris Mullin. He also had Kentucky, Iowa State and Pittsburgh in his final five. After earning Newsday Player of the Year honors for an outstanding senior season, Diallo earned postseason MVP honors at both the McDonald's All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic.
"He went with his heart and what he'd be happy with," said Mike Fortunato of Coram, the father of Diallo's host family. "We're not going to see him play much in college, but it's what's best for him and we're all very excited and very proud. Never in a thousand years did we think that when he first arrived he would wind up the No. 7 recruit in the country and go to a big-time college. The choice was all his. We just told him to be happy."
OSNA assistant coach Eric Jaklitsch said he spoke to Diallo Tuesday and that the player was "extremely happy with his decision. Kansas has a great tradition and a great coach. The biggest factor in Cheick's recruitment was development and coaching. That's always been No. 1 with him . . . If he continues to develop, the sky's the limit for him."
Jaklitsch said he sensed that Diallo "was very comfortable with the Kansas coaching staff," which includes former St. John's coach Norm Roberts. "It's a great situation for him. He's committed and he's relieved the recruiting process is over. Now it's on to the next step."