Men's basketball: Assane Diop looks to build on rookie year with CU Buffs

May 5—It wasn't a redshirt season. And it wasn't a rookie campaign where he stepped immediately into a key rotation spot.

Assane Diop was stuck somewhere in between.

After playing sparingly down the stretch in a season that ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the Colorado men's basketball team, Diop has his sights set on becoming a regular part of the rotation in 2024-25. It's a spot that won't be handed to him.

In the past few weeks, CU and head coach Tad Boyle have added 6-foot-8 Washington State transfer Andrej Jakimovski and 6-foot-9 Colorado Mesa transfer Trevor Baskin, both of whom will be fifth-year seniors next season. The 6-foot-8 Diop is ready for the frontcourt competition and already is trying to build on the lessons he learned as a rookie.

"I think it was a good season, just learning from the other guys and trying to get better every day," Diop said. "It was good practicing every day, and then when I got in games just doing my thing. One thing I'm definitely going to work on is getting bigger. I think one good thing now is we have length on our team. It's the same thing as last year — we had length on our team, and we had a good team.

"Right now, with the people coming in, I feel like we we'll have a good season next year. Going to the Big 12, that will be a big thing for us."

Diop played in the season's first 24 games but saw his playing time dwindle down the stretch. Diop didn't score in any of his final five appearances and played more than two and a half minutes in just one of those games. He didn't play at all in the final four games, encompassing the Pac-12 championship game loss against Oregon as well as CU's three games in the NCAA Tournament.

Diop certainly displayed his potential at times. His most effective game was a Jan. 20 home win against Oregon State, when he set season-highs in minutes (16), field goals (3-for-4), free throws (4-for-4) and points (10). Diop recorded a season-high seven rebounds in a Feb. 28 home win against California.

Diop shot .395 in his limited chances with an 0-for-9 mark on 3-pointers. Take those long-range attempts out of the equation and Diop shot .517 on 2-pointers, and he went 13-for-16 (.813) at the free throw line. No doubt it was a small sample size, but Diop still teased the versatile skills he hopes to build upon during his first full offseason in the program.

"I think both Assane and BD (Bangot Dak) were caught in a position where they were behind seniors who were physically stronger than both of them and had more experience," Boyle said. "With Assane, it's his size, it's his versatility. And when I say versatility, it's his ability to guard multiple positions, whether it's a big guy or whether it's a perimeter player. I think consistency is the biggest thing. He showed flashes certainly in games. He showed flashes at practice for sure. It's being that consistent day in, day out performer to produce, whether it's rebounds, whether it's scoring the ball, whether it's getting fouled and getting to the free throw line. The consistent production is something Assane needs to get better at. And he will."