Diallo continues basketball journey at Eastern

Blake Nash, Assistant Sports Editor

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Like all new players at Eastern, freshman Aboubacar Diallo is experiencing a new environment. But for the 6-foot-7 forward from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, the last few years have been a time for adjusting to the American way of life.

Diallo first came to America in 2006 and enrolled at St. Louis Christian Academy. His uncle first introduced him to basketball at a young age, and when he reached his teenage years, American coaches approached him after a YouTube video of him playing became publicized.

Diallo’s high school coach in Africa asked if he would like to transfer to America. He agreed to leave his home in Abidjan.

Once in America, Diallo struggled in some areas academically, and with his English. Things were not much different in his basketball career, as he sat the bench for most of his first year. But he began to get encouragement from his teacher and coaches as he progressed.

“I had to take classes after school and talk to the teacher,” Diallo said. “They helped me do the best I could and fix my grades.”

As his grades began to improve, his playing time on the course increased, especially in his second season. Eastern assistant coach Rod Stricker, who was coaching the Gateway 17U team, took special notice of Diallo’s improvement on the court.

After a few years under his tutelage, Stricker asked Diallo to come play for him at Eastern, a couple of months after the Panthers won their first postseason game as a Division 1 team. But a new chapter also came with its problems, and for Diallo they were problems that he had adjusted to before.

“Sometimes when I come to class, I don’t understand the teacher because some of them talk very fast, which makes it hard to take notes, listen and interpret,” Diallo said. “Some people will be like, ‘this guy (professor) is crazy, fast. But for me it’s like more.”

Diallo’s professors have taken to assigning him a designated note taker or making copies of their lecture notes for him. This has helped him continue his understanding of the English language and study skills at a pace he’s comfortable with.

Meanwhile on the basketball court, Diallo has had to adjust to a game that requires strength, as well as intelligence. Throughout his career, Diallo has relied on intelligence to be successful at basketball.

However, the Eastern players have to lift weights as part of their training program. This experience has been a painful one for Diallo.

“My body feels hurt because everybody seems to be stronger,” Diallo said. “When we go to the weight room, everybody laughs more at me. I swear Little T (point guard Cornell Johnston) lifts more than me.”

But the entire team has accepted Diallo as his own, christening him with the nickname “Booba.” He has become a part of the team’s family, which is helpful because it can be hard to keep in touch with his own back home.

Still, his family has been able to reach out to him with financial assistance.

“Here, I go to Wal-Mart, where my family will send me money,” Diallo said.

That is one American college tradition that he’s been able to adapt quickly to.

 

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]