UCF’s Diakite is ahead of Taylor at this point in his career

by Andrew Kennedy

When I arrived on the scene at UCF back in 2006, Jermaine Taylor (drafted by the Rockets this year) was playing in his sophomore season for the basketball team.

Now, Dave Diakite is in his second year (redshirt freshman) but may be further along than Taylor was at the time (from now on I will refer to him as Jermaine because it doesn’t seem right to keep calling him Taylor).

Diakite led UCF to a 76-72 victory at home over Albany Saturday night by posting a career-high 21 points that included a pair of game-clinching free throws in the final seconds following a steal (yes, I know it wasn’t a very formidable opponent but it was a good stepping stone for this young team and Diakite was clutch nonetheless).

Diakite is now emerging as the star of this team along with Keith Clanton (sorry, I had to mention my favorite player as a fellow star). He’s doing this by taking on a larger scoring role when the team needs him to, playing great physical defense against multiple types of players and grabbing clutch powerful rebounds above the heads of all others.

Diakite is doing things now that Jermaine never could do in his career at UCF (this is not an article intended to bash Jermaine, only to illustrate how good Diakite might get and maybe take some unnecessary shots at one of the best players to ever play for UCF).

The defense and rebounding is an area where Jermaine always failed to impress and it’s Diakite’s best attributes right now. Diakite doesn’t have to carry a scoring load like Jermaine did but is still showing signs of becoming an offensive threat in the near future (and he can be an explosive one at all times, not just when he catches alley-oops).

He’s able to hit 3-pointers at an honest rate (Jermaine shot 30 percent his freshman season) and is already better at attacking the basket and creating his own shot than Jermaine was, not to mention being a threat in the low post as well (he was the go-to guy on the block for the last four minutes against Albany and dominated, like he should have).

Does this mean that by the time Diakite is a senior he will be scoring 26.2 points per game for the Knights? No. I don’t think so but it will be because he won’t have to and will have better talent around him.

Will Diakite be a better pro prospect and all-around player than Jermaine by his senior year? In my mind, there’s no question.

Physically, he’s way beyond where Jermaine is. This is coming from someone who called Jermaine unathletic to a friend which led to the famous thread that started on the UCF Rivals message boards.

While Jermaine wasn’t necessarily unathletic (he would jump high when he caught alley-oops, but that was the only time and never appeared too abnormally athletic at any other times), when standing next to and being compared to Diakite, it’s not such a ludicrous statement.

Diakite actually possesses a first step while Jermaine never really had one until his senior season. Diakite looks fast on defense and offense while Jermaine seemed to never blow by anyone (I know I already mentioned the first step but it really was that nonexistent) with the ball on offense and couldn’t guard anyone on defense (like a 6-foot-4 Isaac Sosa).

When Jermaine got rebounds, his arms were over the rim. When Diakite gets them, his head is looking down into the rim.

Jermaine was described as raw when he first came to UCF and that he was then polished and molded into the player he became by his senior year (someone who looked more crafty on offense than a player that was once raw, where did the raw skills go!?).

Diakite is also described as being raw but has much more raw talent than Jermaine ever did (this tells me maybe he will be molded into an even better player than Jermaine).

When it comes down to it, Diakite can reach his potential while being woven into an offensive game plan and not having to demand the ball as much as Jermaine did, which will allow for everyone else to get better too.

When Jermaine was a senior, it was all about him and he became so much better than the rest of the supporting cast that the team had no choice but to go to him as much as possible (Jermaine didn’t exactly help much by becoming a great passer or anything when he easily could have).

That will never happen with Diakite. He can find offense himself from the offensive glass and can let others get involved (like UCF’s other young stars: Sosa and Clanton) and still have a big game.

Jermaine wasn’t selfish (I promise I cheered for him sometimes when he was a senior). The team just needed him to be when he was here.

Diakite will never be asked to do that and that’s why he should turn into a better all-around player than Jermaine ever was. The rest of this season should showcase Diakite’s growth from an athletic and raw talent to a polished stud on both ends of the floor.

Photo courtesy of www.ucfsports.com.