Getting Gorgui Dieng was better than getting Fab Melo for Louisville.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – They say the Syracuse University basketball team could use Fab Melo in the middle. Losing Melo has not been an issue for the University of Louisville. Gorgui Dieng has taken care of that.
Before Syracuse lost Melo to the pros after less than two seasons of play, U of L lost Melo after all the flashing lights indicated he intended to sign with Rick Pitino, not his pal Jim Boeheim.
Melo called an audible, committing to the Orange and Boeheim. That forced Pitino to call an audible and belatedly pursue Dieng.
Which guy would you rather have today as the Cards (ranked Number One) play host to Syracuse (ranked sixth) in the KFC Yum! Center at 4 p.m.?
You can't always get what you want, and sometimes it's funny the way you learn there's nothing wrong with that.
"It really has worked out better for us," Pitino said. "In fact, it probably worked out better for Fab Melo to go there. It was a win-win for both programs."
Of course, the win-winning has lasted longer for Louisville, although that is not what anybody was saying three seasons ago.
In case you missed it, and I'm sure that you did, Melo had his second-finest game as a professional Friday night. He scored 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds – for the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League.
Melo isn't supposed to be Portland, Maine. He is supposed to be in Boston.
Or in Syracuse. Maybe Louisville. Pitino and his staff wanted Melo as badly as they have wanted any player over the last four years.
The Celtics drafted Melo with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. Boston ignored the lights that flashed after Melo didn't finish last season at Syracuse when he was declared ineligible prior to the NCAA Tournament.
The 22nd pick seemed like a stretch. Melo averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds for Jim Boeheim's team. But Melo is 7 feet and 255 pounds. All was forgiven. Basketball talent evaluators had been gaga about him since the summer of 2009 when he played AAU basketball for a team based in Florida and surged into the Top 20 in all the recruiting rankings (No. 16 nationally with Rivals.com and No. 13 with Scout).
The early word was that Melo was bound for Louisville. The Cards were the team to beat.
Syracuse beat them all right, convincing a kid who grew up in Brazil and then lived in Florida that Central New York was the perfect place to wear short pants all winter.
What was Louisville going to do?
Hope Terrence Jennings stuck around two more years? Develop Stephan Van Treese? Go small? Wait 'til next year? Punt?
Enter Justin Coleman, who was only 6-4.
Rick Pitino and his staff pursued Coleman nearly as relentlessly as they had pursued Melo. Coleman played at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep. He made his official visit to U of L in January 2010. He brought along a friend and teammate – Gorgui Dieng.
Confess. You'd forgotten about Justin Coleman. He's easy to forget. He signed with U of L, but never became eligible.
Whatever happened to Justin Coleman?
He landed at Marshall, but failed to finish a complete season. Scout had rated him the No. 40 player in the 2010 class. Rivals said No. 50. He never played like it.
Coleman has done less to justify the hype than Melo. On Thursday, Coleman missed five of nine shots, scoring 14 for Midland Junior College. That's about his average. You probably missed that, too.
There's nothing average about Dieng, who was ranked 44th (Rivals) and 46th (Scout) on the recruiting boards. Never has been. If Melo and Coleman make you roll your eyes, Dieng's play makes you nod your head. He's been so much more than a consolation prize.
The only thing that has stopped Dieng has been the broken wrist he suffered in November. It's getting better with every dribble. In four Big East games since he has healed, Dieng has averaged 11.3 points and 14.3 rebounds. He has blocked 10 shots.
Gorgui Dieng is as good as any big man in the Big East, certainly good enough to make everybody forget Fab Melo and Justin Coleman.