Arkansas set to host top targets Fall, Diop on official visits

Arkansas set to host top targets Fall, Diop on official visits

Arkansas is set to welcome priority 2023 targets Baye Fall and Assane Diop to campus for official visits. The 6-10 tandem makes their long-awaited return arrivals to campus Friday afternoon on the heels of a visit to Seton Hall, and will be on hand for the weekend, including Saturday’s football game against Alabama.

Both originally from Senegal, the duo has long been on the priority list for Arkansas as they have burst onto the basketball scene in Colorado since moving to the United States a few years ago. Eric Musselman extended official offers to the pair in August of 2021 and both were in town for unofficial visits when the Hogs knocked off Kentucky in Bud Walton Arena in February.

Fall (6-10, 205) is a five-star prospect, ranking No. 16 overall nationally, No. 3 among centers and No. 1 in the state of Colorado in his class. Diop (6-10, 190) is a four-star prospect who ranks No. 91 in his class, No. 2 in Colorado and No. 12 at his position.

Fall and Diop have long been teamed up with the Colorado Hawks on the Adidas 3SSB circuit, led by director and Arkansas native Greg Willis. In fact, Willis was teammates with Razorback legend Ron Brewer at Fort Smith Northside, winning a state title in 1974. Of course, Ronnie Brewer Jr. currently serves as Arkansas’ recruiting coordinator.

As sophomores in 2020-21, Fall was named the Colorado Class 3A State Player of the Year and a First-Team Max Preps All-American while leading Lutheran (Parker) to its fourth state championship, averaging 22.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.2 blocked shots per game on 65 percent shooting from the field. Meanwhile, Diop helped lead Belleview Christian High School to an undefeated, Class 1A State Championship as a sophomore, while averaging 16.3 points, 18.8 rebounds, 7.2 blocks and 7.5 assists per game.

The pair teamed up in the high school ranks as juniors at Denver Prep last season and will join forces once again at upstart Accelerated Prep in Denver (Colo.) for their senior campaigns.

HawgSports caught up with Fall and Diop’s head coach at Accelerated Prep, Mike Haynes, who is obviously new to the program but has known and trained the talented forwards for several years. Those long-standing relationships have helped streamline things as he prepares an entirely new roster for the rapidly approaching season that features a challenging schedule, including a matchup against Link Academy in Arkansas in late-November.

“As a whole, I’ve known Baye and Assane since they were in eighth grade,” said Haynes. “I’ve been training them off an on for the past four years or so. I know them more than I know the rest of the kids, but I’m spending 4-5 hours a day with them so I’m getting to know them quick. We’re only in Week 2.

“We’re excited. It’s really exciting to think how we could grow into something special. A lot of these prep schools are one-and-done. I don’t want to be a part of anything like that. Hopefully we can develop it out and make a name for ourselves nationally.”

Throughout the years, it has been the motivation and desire to improve that has stood out most to Haynes about Fall and Diop, who are as close as it gets but thrive on competing with one another on the practice floor.

“The word that describes both of them is hunger,” said Haynes. “They’re both super hungry to get better each and every day. If the workout isn’t hard, they feel like they wasted their time and will get upset a little bit. Seeing them come from the eighth grade up until now, they ‘ve really matured as young men and on the basketball court. It’s hard to keep them out of the gym. They are literally always in the gym.

“Baye has really grown into his own as a player. Assane has always been that quiet leader on the floor. Now, he’s starting to be a little more vocal, which I like. They guard each other every day in practice, so there’s always a fight.”

While Fall and Diop are listed at the same position, they have always had strong on-floor chemistry and fared well sharing the floor with one another. The name of the game in modern basketball is versatility, and Haynes sees a lot of those traits in the duo.

“In high school basketball, they are four and fives, meaning Assane is a four and Baye is a five,” Haynes said. “Next level and the level after that, Assane, if I wanted to, I could play him one through five on offense and defense. He can bring the ball up the court. He can run pick-and-rolls. He can post up He can slash, he can pass, and he can guard one through five.

“Baye, in my eyes, isn’t even a five. He’s like a four. He can face up and run the lanes. He runs like a deer. I don’t know any fives that are faster than him. So, we ‘re working on expanding his game to turn him into that stretch-4 or off-the-dribble-4.

“From a coaching standpoint, it’s easy. I’m never going to play one or the other. I’m going to play both. Baye will be at the five. Assane will be at the four. If we get another big, I may throw Assane at the three. We have a team that can really mix it up a little bit and switch up positions and put guys in spots where they can be successful.”

When it comes to personality and demeanor on and off the court, Haynes, who played college basketball at Fordham and had a professional career overseas of more than a decade, sees several characteristics in Fall and Diop that should translate to the liking of whichever coaching staff (s) ultimately land their commitments.

“They’re good kids. They’re really alpha males in their own little way,” said Haynes. “They don’t clash, but they’re still alphas. You feel their presence when they walk into a building or onto a court. They’re just good people. They know what they want, and they’re not going to let anybody get in the way of that.

“Any coach would love them. They’ll do things without you even telling them to do it. You don’t have to tell them to stretch or warmup. If I’m talking to somebody or in the bathroom, when I come out the drills are already started. So, there’s a lot of leadership.”

Arkansas currently has just one commitment in the 2023 class in composite five-star point guard Layden Blocker. In addition to Fall and Diop, the Razorbacks remain in heavy pursuit of five-star Duncanville (Texas) standout Ron Holland and Arizona Compass Prep forward Zayden High.

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