The missing element in Kansas' frontcourt this past season was a big man who could alter shots at one end and finish above the rim or in transition at the other.
The Jayhawks may have filled that void Tuesday.
Cheick Diallo, MVP of the McDonald's All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic, committed to Kansas, selecting the Jayhawks over a long list of schools including Kentucky, Iowa State and St. John's. The 6-foot-9 native of Mali is rated Rivals.com's No. 5 recruit in the class of 2015 even though he didn't begin playing basketball until four or five years ago.
Diallo is the perfect complement to rising senior Perry Ellis in the Kansas frontcourt because their strengths are so different.
Ellis atones for modest length and athleticism with a polished repertoire of back-to-the-basket moves and a mid-range jump shot consistent out to nearly the 3-point arc. Diallo isn't going to scare anyone if Kansas feeds him the ball in the high post or on the low block, but he runs the floor exceptionally, finishes at the rim, rebounds at both ends and uses his impressive timing and wingspan to protect the rim on defense.
The presence of Diallo and and Ellis eases the pressure on incoming freshman Carlton Bragg to make an immediate impact and enables Jamari Traylor to remain in a reserve role. Diallo's defensive presence should also give Kansas' guards the security to play the passing lanes and apply increased ball pressure without fear of surrendering an uncontested layup if they get beat.
Pair Kansas' suddenly deep frontcourt with its loaded backcourt, and the Jayhawks have the look of a potential preseason top five team. Frank Mason and Devonte Graham form a capable duo at point guard and Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk provide options for the Jayhawks at wing.
Kansas has made a habit of adding impact freshmen late in the spring the past few seasons, from Graham and Mykhailiuk last season, to Andrew Wiggins the previous year, to Ben McLemore a couple years before that.
Diallo is the latest one. And like his late-signing predecessors, he fills a major void.
Rivals video of Cheick Diallo:
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