Base line: lean back, protect the ball with two hands, back turned eyeing the inside defender from the corner of his eye.
The slightest pause.
Two fighters now acknowledge that their playing a game of Russian Roulette. The defender thinking, “Is he gonna break for it underneath? Or is he gonna drop back and fade away?”
All within the moment of a split second.
One: Diarra drops his right shoulder down toward the base line. Two: The thought by the defender “He’s going under!” Three: Defender shifts all his weight toward the base line. Four: Diarra leans back, takes it back over the left shoulder and into the lay in. Five: As smooth as Back at One by Brian McKnight, his favorite song.
“MOOOOOSSSSEEE!” mic’s the PA announcer at Diarra’s last game in War Memorial against LMU just like he had done for every other game. Everybody put your hands in the air and wave ‘em like you just don’t care! Now scream! Green&Yellow!
Moustapha Diarra, most known by his nickname Moose, is a 6’10’’ forward and the sole senior for the USF Dons basketball team. His popularity with the USF community goes as far as his own following of Los Locos that fashion foam moose antler hats in support of their man.
Yet, Diarra’s story didn’t all start with an orange basketball. Rather it began in Marseille, France at the age of 6 with a soccer ball like all the other kids.
Diarra grew up in the city with his family of 6 including his mother Sali, father Daouda, older brother Sidi, younger brother Oumar, and sister Safia. He went to school like any normal kid growing up, but one day at the age of 15 he learned about that game of basketball from his older brother Sidi, who had been playing with his friends since middle school, and ever since, its been like McKnight opened: “It’s undeniable that we should be together.”
Through high school Diarra played in clubs that recruited for players that would represent regions and cities in France, watched And 1 mix tapes, and played street ball that consisted of 3-on-3 match ups at a few local areas that he knew of. Yet, Diarra’s parents were not as supportive as one might hope. They wanted to make sure that Diarra’s primary incentive was doing well in school and that the full schedule of workouts and playing basketball was secondary.
Still, Diarra slid right on by and through people he had known in France found a fit as a General at Sherdan College, a small junior college in Wyoming. Diarra quickly learned during open gym with teammates in Wyoming that the game of basketball is played with less aggressiveness here compared to France. “Nobody said anything,” Diarra said. “But it was during my first official game that I fouled out fast.”
The game that Diarra knew as basketball in France was more aggressive than American basketball. Diarra played in a big summer tournament when he was 18 and 19 called the Le Quai 54 in France in which he found “American players from Rucker Park said that the French street ball is too aggressive”.
So when Diarra showed up in Wyoming he had to subdue his game a little bit meaning not extending his arms as much, getting rebounds over the back, or boxing out hard. “Overall they’re pretty much the same game,” Diarra said. “There are only little adjustments to make.”
While in Sherdan, Diarra never once lost a wink of sleep over fear of being stuck in a little cowboy town like Wyoming. His list of colleges that were talking to him was simply put “a lot.” Some of the school that saw potential in Diarra’s first season at Sherdan include basketball programs as prestigious as the University of Kentucky and Rutgers. Yet Diarra chose USF because he felt it fit his needs best. “I was looking for a good school with a good basketball program,” Diarra said.
Diarra will be graduating from USF at the end of Spring 2011 with a degree in Business Finance, but he is going to follow his dreams of playing professional basketball, first starting out in Europe where he has old friends that can help him hit his highs. But his goal is still to play NBA basketball, possibly with either of his two favorite players Dwyane Wade or (only 2’’ taller than Diarra) Dwight Howard. Everybody needs a big man.
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