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Senior Moments | A.D. Vassallo and Cheick Diakite

With the excitement of March Madness also comes the sadness of knowing you will be seeing a couple of Virginia Tech players for the final time.  On Wednesday night, Tech will bid adieu to A.D. Vassallo and Cheick Diakite.  Let’s take a look at their careers here in Blacksburg.

A.D. VASSALLO

Angel Daniel Vassallo, the Puerto Rican Assassin, will go down in Virginia Tech basketball history as one of its best-ever pure scorers when he hangs up his burnt-orange and Chicago-maroon jersey for the final time.  Going into the unc game, he sits in ninth place on Tech’s all time scoring list with 1698 points.  A.D. will finish his career somewhere between fifth and eighth place on this list depending on how far VT advances in the ACC and NCAA/NIT Tournaments.  With 88 more points, he will pass his teammate of two seasons, Zabian Dowdell, and become the Hokies’ most prolific scorer of the past 20 years since Bimbo Coles.

A.D., I like to joke, came to VT as the “player to be named later” in the Tony Dobbins trade.  Tony played for the Hokies for one season under ricky stokes before deciding to transfer to richmond after the 1999-2000 season (Was it stokes or maybe he just really loved the A-10?).  Vassallo signed with richmond, but was denied admission.  The spiders’ loss was Tech’s gain, as A.D. has blossomed in his four years in Blacksburg.

Over A.D.’s four seasons, he has improved in almost every area each season.  He has improved each and every season in:

  • Shooting percentage
  • Rebounds per game
  • Assists per game
  • Blocks per game
  • Steals per game
  • Points per game

That’s an amazing trend.  No off seasons, no drop-off on offense.  His three-point percentage has gone down the last two years after shooting a blistering 41.5% his sophomore year, but that is understandable since he has been the focal point of the Hokies’ offense, and therefore, the focal point of opponents’ defense.  And he’s still shooting 38% from long range this year, along with his highest free throw percentage ever. Vassallo has developed a deadly runner off penetration in the last year or two and has learned to take the ball strong at the rack and flush it at times. He has improved off the dribble with each season and is no longer just a spot-up shooter.

A.D.’s performance his junior season was good enough to earn Second Team All-ACC Honors, and he will likely make the Second or Third Team this season. His 18.7 ppg is good for fifth in the conference and his 6.1 rpg place are 19th best in the ACC. In ACC games he is seventh in the conference in shooting percentage which is amazing for a perimeter player that shoots so many threes, and leads the conference in minutes per game. Ty Lawson and Gerald Henderson are the only other perimeter players ahead of him.

Vassallo is never going to win any defensive honors.  But he does help out in a big way on the glass.  A.D. is averaging 6.1 rebounds per game this season, good for second on the team.  He can always be counted on for big defensive rebounds. He averages 4.8 defensive rebounds per game this season, good for 10th in the ACC. Vassallo has collected five double-doubles (points/rebounds) in his career, with at least one each season.

Vassallo made the Puerto Rican National Team this past Summer and played for them in the Under-21 World Championships.  He averaged 8.6 ppg for Puerto Rico and the experience had to help him adjust to the new three-point line in college ball.

Greatest Game:

January 28th, 2006 – VT 76, @wake 70 – Yes, A.D. had 30 this year against wisconsin, including 24 second half points on 6/7 shooting from long range.  He had 29 in a win against uva in January of this season.  A.D. scored 15 straight points against duke this past Saturday.  But the wake game put Vassallo on the map his freshman year, and in a very difficult setting.  Tech traveled to Winston-Salem sitting at 0-6 in conference.  To add to their degree of difficulty, Deron Washington was suspended for this game and Coleman Collins was on leave dealing with his father’s tragic illness.  That left Tech with six scholarship players, so pretty much 0-7 was a done deal.  A.D. had not been seeing many minutes going into this game, after tapping a shot into his own basket to cost VT the bowling green game early in the season, but in this game he exploded.  A.D. hit 11/19 from the field, including four three-pointers, grabbed 10 rebounds, and willed Tech to victory.  Since that game, A.D. has always owned the deacons, averaging more than 20 points per game against them, his highest output against any ACC team.

2007 Hokie Celebration
Niemo arm curling A.D. back in 2007

CHEICK DIAKITE

The name just rolls off your tongue (once you learned how to pronounce it).  Kind of like how shots roll away from the rim when shooting it against Cheick.  If there’s one thing Cheick does well, it is block shots.  He currently sits in fifth place on the Virginia Tech blocked shot list with 123, and he will finish his career in fifth.  Not bad for a guy that has only averaged 12 minutes per game for his VT career.

Cheick came to Virginia Tech as a three-star recruit.  But that rating was definitely based on his potential, not his past pedigree.  Diakite is originally from Bamako, Mali (northwestern Africa).  He played for Bridgton Academy in Maine and averaged 10 points and nine rebounds his senior year.

Once at Tech, Cheick was seldom used his freshman year after conference play started.  He did notch 11 points, seven rebounds, and blocked three shots in an early season game against mount st. mary’s.  That still marks his career high for points and is one of just two times he has hit double digits.  The win over georgia tech this season marks the other occasion when he scored 10.

Over the last three years, Diakite has played at least 400 minutes each season and has earned 39 starts.  This season he has averaged a career high 17.2 minuters per game, but his time has been a real roller coaster.  Cheick did not play in two contests, and has seen his minutes fluctuate from 31, to 6, to 28, to 33, to 12, to 0 over the six games.  At least he knows he will get a start Wednesday and play through the first media timeout.

Cheick has taken advantage of his increased play this season by averaging career highs in points (3.9), rebounds (4.0), and blocks (1.3).  He’s developed a decent midrange jumper from 10-15 feet along the baseline.  This has forced teams to respect him a little bit on the offensive end, which helps open up things for Jeff Allen.

Nice article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch on March 4th: Diakite Article

Greatest Game:

December 29th, 2007 – VT 54, st. john’s 48 — The mount st. mary’s 11 point, 7 rebound, 3 block performance his freshman year was a strong candidate along with his 10 points and 7 rebounds against georgia tech this year.  But I’m picking the Holiday Festival Championship Game from his junior season, where Cheick had seven blocks in just 23 minutes off the bench.  He didn’t score, but in one of the ugliest contests I’ve ever seen that set back the offensive game of basketball several years, Cheick was the most dominant defensive player on the floor.

This post was written by:

- who has written 1201 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

Contact the author | Visit the author's website | Follow Niemo on Twitter

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