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Virginias Diane ready for final JPJ appearance - Mar 12, 2009

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Mamadi Diane
(by Charlotesville Daily Progress)

Before the season started, the thought of Mamadi Diane (196-G/F-86) needing a Senior Day custom to earn a place in Virginias starting lineup would have seemed outlandish.

But that will be the case this afternoon when Mo steps onto the John Paul Jones Arena court for the final time as UVa (9-17, 3-12 ACC) attempts to snap a four-game losing streak against Maryland.

While the Terrapins (18-11, 7-8) will be fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, the Cavaliers will be playing out the string with Diane on their minds.

Coach always says you play for your seniors, said Virginia junior Calvin Baker. Were real close with Mo and we definitely want him to go out on a positive note. Were going to try and make the day as special as we can for him.

Diane, who was expected to be Virginias go-to guy this season he was featured on the cover of the teams media guide has had a nightmarish senior year.

After starting 65 games in his first three years and averaging 9.2 points, the former DeMatha Catholic (Md.) star, due to some poor early shooting, fell into coach Dave Leitaos doghouse this season. He had four DNPs in February the first of his career and is averaging just 4.7 points.

But through it all, Diane has seemed to earn as much respect from teammates and media members than if he had been named to the All-ACC first team.

The co-captain has handled his predicament with grace, never putting himself ahead of the team. Diane hasnt pouted a remarkable feat in todays sports world.

As the team has faltered, Diane, a co-captain, hasnt ditched out on his responsibilities as a team leader.

Something that Ive been saying and trying to preach is finding some type of motivation to play toward, said Diane recently. Whether its knocking a top team off its pedestal or just getting that experience to learn how to win for next year.

While frustrated that Diane hasnt had a good season, Virginia fans have, for the most part, stuck behind No. 24. Theyve seemed to empathize with his plight.

I appreciate that more than anything, Diane said. When Im getting up to take my warmup off, I hear the crowd yelling. People when they see me have just been telling me to stay with it e-mails and signs and things. Im very appreciative of it.

I even have refs talking to me during the game telling me that they hope I get to that 1,000 [point] mark.

Diane, who currently has 975 points, has never really seemed to take to the coaching style of Leitao. His unassuming and polite demeanor seemed to clash with Leitaos fiery approach.

When Leitao first arrived at Virginia, he spoke of Diane, then a freshman, glowingly. He said that Diane had an indescribable it factor that separated him from everyone else. Leitao intimated that Diane had the potential to play in the NBA one day.

Earlier this week, Leitao vividly recalled that time of promise. He reflected on Dianes first college game, a win over Liberty. Diane scored 17 points and helped put the clamps down on Larry Blair, the Flames leading scorer.

From there, hes had some really, really good moments in this league, Leitao said. Hes been Player of the Week. He was a significant part of an 11-5 ACC co-championship team [in 2006-07].

Obviously, this year is as low as he thought it could go.

Funny thing is, Diane hasnt written off his career yet even though hes likely down to his final week as a Wahoo.

Ive been feeling great for a while now, he said. Im practicing a lot better and putting up a lot more reps. Ive just been telling myself and my familys been telling me that whenever I do get that opportunity, just play hard.

Leitao, for whatever its worth, believes that everything Diane has gone through will serve him well down the road.

The body of your work sometimes defines how you prepare yourself, not just in the game of basketball but in the game of life, Leitao said. Hes had more than his share of trials and tribulations and triumphs, as well as losses. Its given him a microcosm of what life will be able to give him.

In October, during ACC Media Day in Atlanta, Diane in the wake of former star Sean Singletarys departure talked hopefully about leaving his mark on the Virginia program. He said that he used to daydream with former roommate and teammate Lars Mikalauskas about what it would be like to go out on a winning note as seniors.

Well, things didnt exactly work out that way.

Its sad, said Diane, when asked about playing his final home game, but it had to end sometime. Im looking forward to [today].


Since Virginia fifth-year senior Tunji Soroye (211-C-84) was honored at Senior Day last season, a Virginia spokesperson said the main focus of this years festivities will be on Diane, the teams only true senior. Soroye, who has 16 blocks this season, ranks ninth on the all-time school list (94). Todays game is the second of the season between the two teams. Maryland defeated Virginia, 84-78, in College Park on Jan. 20. The Terrapins lead the series with UVa 103-67, but the Cavaliers lead 42-39 in games played in Charlottesville.   

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