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Mamadi Diakite withdraws from NBA Draft to return to Virginia

Coming back for one more season, this national champ will be the leader of the 2019-2020 team.

Oregon v Virginia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Virginia Cavaliers forward Mamadi Diakite has withdrawn from the NBA Draft process and will be returning to Charlottesville for his senior season. Today was the deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft process--and therefore maintain NCAA eligibility for another season. For fans, Diakite’s decision came down to the wire, with his announcement coming in the final hour:

“I am excited to annonce [sic] that after testing the waters and getting great exposure and encouraging feedback,” Diakite said in his Instagram post, “I have decided to return to the University of Virginia for my senior year. I can’t wait to join my coaches and teammates and get to work as we try to win another one. ”

Though he did not receive an invite to the NBA Combine, Diakite did participate in the G League Elite Camp, although he was not one of the 10 players to advance from the G League camp to the NBA Combine.

Diakite, a 6-9, 228 pound forward, averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this past season. During the postseason, Diakite helped Virginia win its first National Championship in basketball by increasing his production to an average of 10.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Over the past couple months, Diakite has had opportunities to work out with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings. It’s been reported that he’s had further conversations with the Kings about next steps and processes.

With Diakite’s return, head coach Tony Bennett only has one scholarship immediately available for the 2019-2020 season. On Tuesday, Marquette transfer forward Sam Hauser announced he would be coming to Virginia, although he’ll have to sit a year out per NCAA transfer rules, pending any appeal. This leaves the door open for just one graduate transfer.

Diakite, already a national champion, will have one more year to develop under Bennett, except that this year, he’ll be armed with a checklist of feedback, weaknesses, and areas of focus for the upcoming season. He’ll have the benefit of being a senior leader on the team, a team that will need to find a way to replace Deandre Hunter, Kyle Guy, and Ty Jerome, who all left for the NBA Draft, as well as Jack Salt, who has (finally?) run out of eligibility. Virginia is also losing Marco Anthony, who put his name into the transfer portal.

The NBA Draft is on Thursday, June 20. In the meantime, relive some of Diakite’s greatest NCAA Tournament highlights here. You already know what’s coming!