Q&A With Mamadi Diane
Mamadi Diane is a 6-5 junior forward/guard from Potomac, Md., who played his high school basketball at DeMatha Catholic. Diane has been an integral part of the Virginia team since his first season in 2005-06. He played in every game as a freshman and started every game last season when he was the Cavaliers’ third-leading scorer with an average of 9.6 points a game. Through seven games this season, Diane is second on the team in scoring with an average of 13.0 points a game and third in rebounding at 4.6 rebounds a game. He is shooting 55.6 percent (30-54) from the field, including 57.6 percent (19-33) from three-point range, and 75.0 percent (12-16) from the free throw line.
Question: You were recruited and had signed a letter of intent before Dave Leitao became Virginia’s head coach. Coach Leitao is the coach you’ve played for at the college level. How did that work out after Coach Leitao was named head coach at Virginia?
Diane: “After Coach Leitao was named head coach I still had interest in the University of Virginia. I talked to Coach Leitao and his staff and afterward still felt comfortable with the school and with Coach Leitao. I decided to stay with the decision I had made and I felt comfortable with that decision.”
Question: You are off to a fine start this season. To what do you attribute the start you’ve gotten off to this season?
Diane: “I would say more than anything my mindset and the work I put in during the off-season. I think the mindset I have is helping me stay consistent from game to game.”
Question: What do you mean when you mention your mindset?
Diane: “Just having more of a mental approach to the game and my preparation than I’ve had the last few years.”
Question: You’ve shot the ball very well through the first seven games. Was that a point of emphasis for you this past summer as you prepared for this season?
Diane: “I felt a lot more comfortable shooting the ball last season, so in the off-season I wanted to work on a lot of things but also keep shooting. I shot more than I ever have and I think it has paid off because my shooting has been pretty consistent thus far.”
Question: Are there other aspects of your game that you really emphasized as you prepared for this season?
Diane: “Just trying to create and be more of a scorer. Offensively I worked on my handle and taking people off of the dribble and on my shot more than anything.”
Question: Do you have a regular schedule when you work on your shooting?
Diane: “Mostly I try to shoot after practice. I try to get to practice early, but with my class schedule it’s difficult. Sometimes I’ll shoot early in the morning before classes. When we’re out of school, late at night is one of the most ideal times to shoot.”
Question: Coach Leitao stresses defense and has talked about your improvement in that area. Is that an area you’ve really worked on?
Diane: “I think that’s come with the experience of playing the last few years. During the last couple of years I’ve been assigned to guard if not the whole game, some of the game, some of the other team’s best players. If J.R. needed a rest, for example, and I think that really helped me coming into this season. So far I’ve been put on the other team’s best player every time and just knowing that role has been put on me gives me a lot to think about. I’ve been given an opportunity and I don’t want to let my teammates down. I take great pride in it.”
Question: It’s hard to believe you’re in your third year in this program and one of the veterans on the team. Are you conscious of providing leadership for the younger players?
Diane: “Yes, definitely. It’s not something I’ve been the past couple of years, a leader, so it’s something I’m also learning. I’m just trying to help the younger guys with things that I’ve been through. It’s not that hard trying to help them with things that I’ve been through and trying to encourage them and help them out.”
Question: How do you view your role on this team?
Diane: “I think my teammates know that on defense I’m somebody they can rely on every night. I’m also trying to gain a certain reliance on offense by just being consistent and a player my teammates can rely on more than anything to bring a high level of play and competitiveness every night.”
Question: What are your thoughts on this year’s team?
Diane: “I think we’ve started playing well together and people have started learning each other’s weaknesses and strengths and what everybody brings to the table. We have a lot of room to grow. We’re doing well now, but can do so much better. I think that’s great knowing we have so much more of an upside.”
Question: You come from an athletic family. You dad played professional soccer and your older brother played collegiate soccer. What was it like athletically growing up in your family?
Diane: “It was very competitive. We played every sport. My dad and my older brother would always get the best of me. They would go in and I would stay out and try to work out so that I could be better than them one day. It was real competitive.”
Question: How did you come to play basketball?
Diane: “I really played just because my brother played. Everything my brother did I did. That was just another sport he played that I picked up. Basketball more than all of the others stuck with me. I liked the game more than any other and that was the one I worked on the most.”
Question: Did you play soccer?
Diane: “Yes, I played soccer up until about the ninth grade. I quit because of the weather. I didn’t like playing outside in the cold weather at all.”
Question: Does your family get to many Virginia home games?
Diane: “My mom and dad come to just about every one. My brothers come when they can.”
Question: You played your high school basketball at DeMatha. What was it like playing high school basketball at a school that has so much tradition and did it help prepare you for college basketball?
Diane: “It was great playing at DeMatha because so many players came through there. Just going there and knowing the legacy, seeing the trophies and the pictures in the hallway, and just being a part of that was great. The coaching staff was very strict and a lot of players coming to college don’t have what I had there. The defensive mindset and being a team player and everything that went along with the program. The basics and the fundamentals, I don’t think a lot of high school kids have what I had, so I thought coming into college I was more prepared in that aspect.”
Question: What is your major?
Diane: “Foreign affairs.”
Question: How has college life been for you away from basketball?
Diane: “It has been good. The city of Charlottesville is a great place. Everybody here is nice. They know who you are since it’s not a big city. It’s been a nice place to go to school.”