Photo courtesy of Providence College Athletics
By David Cordova
Last season in the Big East championship game at Madison Square Garden in New York City, there was a highly-contested game between Villanova and Providence, before more than 19,000 fans. The arena was a madhouse and every possession was intense, being that many would wonder what happened next.
Although Kyron Cartwright stole the show on that night with his scoring performance, there was one other player for the Friars that stood out that night. His name is Alpha Diallo. In that game in his hometown, he scored 22 points & added 10 rebounds in the 76-66 loss to the eventual national champions. What’s more important though, is the fact, that he could play on the big stage.
Fast-forward, eight months later to the present day. Diallo is now a junior at Providence, and is back to give the Friars another productive season. The 6-foot-7 forward has the versatility to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket efficiently, but is also the guy that can get rebounds when needed.
Diallo is a native of the Harlem section of New York, where the game of basketball is taken very seriously. Basketball started for him when he was in middle school, and by high school, he was garnering plenty of attention for himself on the playgrounds.
Diallo started high school at Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, but then went out to the West Coast as a sophomore to play at Denver West High School in Denver, Colorado, where he averaged 17.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and led them to a state championship.
When asked about the experience of playing in Colorado, Diallo replied, “It was different, but [it was] a good experience.”
As a junior, he transferred to Abraham Lincoln High School, which was also in Denver, but there would be some bad news coming. Because of a transfer ruling by the Colorado High School Activities Association, he was forced to sit out the entire season.
“It sucks sitting out a whole year, even when you’re healthy. So, when they did let me play during the summer, I had to show what I had, because I didn’t play the whole season,” said Diallo.
The summer after his junior season, Diallo played on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit with the Colorado Hawks, and made a huge impact nationally. His play earned him plenty of offers around the nation and it would increase even more when he played for Team Africa in the Adidas Nations event in Las Vegas that summer, as he showcased his talents in front of the lens of ESPN. In one of the games, he scored 30 points and added 13 rebounds. His efforts would help lead Team Africa to a third-place finish. By the end of the summer, he was rated as a Top-100 recruit.
Then, for his final season of high school, he would come back to the East Coast to play at nationally-renowned powerhouse Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire for his senior season. With the Bobcats, he averaged 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and made second-team All NEPSAC honors.
In April 2016, after fielding offers from schools such as Indiana, Miami (FL), Boston College, Rutgers, VCU, Florida, Seton Hall and Rutgers, he decided to choose Providence, where he remains today.
When asked what he likes about playing for Providence, he replied, “It’s my second home, being from New York, so now, I’m up here in Providence, and it’s a great place to be. It’s my third year, so I’ve gotten used to everything.”
On the energy of the fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, the 14,300-seat arena that the Friars play at in downtown Providence, he added: “It’s great. Usually, for non-conference games and Big East play, we get sold out crowds and everyone’s cheering for you, so we take advantage of that for sure.”
As a freshman, he averaged 5.7 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game. But last season, he raised his level of play by averaging 13.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game and led the Friars to a 21-14 record and a first-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
When asked about how he felt about his play from last season, he replied, “Not too bad, [but] as a team, we could’ve did a lot better. We got to the Tournament, for sure, which was the goal, and it’s a testament to those older guys, just building that legacy.”
In regards to the Big East Tournament run from last March, he replied, “It was great being in New York, it’s always fun going home and playing in front of family and the fans here [in Providence] are tremendous, we’ve got a huge fan base here, so it’s great.”
This season, Providence has gotten off to a 5-2 start and Diallo has been one of the key leaders on this team, as he has averaged 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game through the first seven games of the season. When asked if he felt like an elder statesmen on this team, he replied, “Yeah, definitely. [I’m] working on my leadership skills this year. It should be a good thing for us.”
On playing for Ed Cooley, who is now in his eighth season as the head coach at Providence, he replied, “He’s a great guy, fun person to play for. He brings the intensity and you just have to match it.”
Now with this year’s team, there’s a chance for the Friars to make its’ sixth straight NCAA Tournament under Cooley. With all of the depth that the Friars have, there’s no telling that they will be one of the strongest teams that the conference has to offer.
As for Diallo, he plans on becoming even more of a leader, as well as improving as a player, whether physically or statistically. This season, Diallo will have his homecoming twice at the Garden, as they will play St. John’s on February 9th and also for the Big East Tournament during the weekend of March 13-16th.
The question now is, what’s next for Alpha Diallo? His answer is simple: “I’m just going to take it game by game.”
Highlights of Alpha Diallo:
Courtesy of Remy Lagarde.
Courtesy of Remy Lagarde.
Courtesy of RI Affiliated.
Courtesy of ESPN.
Courtesy of Big East Conference.
Courtesy of Friarbasketball.
Courtesy of Friarbasketball.