UConn Hoops Newcomer Notebook: No. 5 Hassan Diarra
With 14.7 seconds left in overtime of the second round of the SEC Tournament this past season, Texas A&M was tied with Florida at 80 points apiece. Tyrece Radford, the Aggies’ lead guard, took the ball up the court as expected and surveyed the floor. Radford drove left, but with four ticks on the clock, dished it to sixth man Hassan Diarra, a player averaging just over six points per game. To a casual fan, giving the ball to your sixth man who makes less than a third of his threes seems like a curious choice, but Diarra brings more than the statsheet indicates. He faked left, took a step to the right and launched a rainbow three with a hand in his face. Bottoms. Diarra, a small 6’2’’ guard from Queens, NY, brings a clutch pedigree to UConn that has the power to take them far for the next few seasons.
He went to high school at Putnam Science Academy, where he had a storied career. The guard scored 1,469 points in his three years there, finishing as the school’s all time leading scorer. In his final two years, Diarra led Putnam Science to consecutive National Prep Championships, establishing himself as a winning player and a leader. Ranked as a 4-star and the 74th best player by Rivals, he committed to Texas A&M, hoping to lead them to the success they saw with Alex Caruso and Robert Williams under coach Billy Kennedy.
Diarra started his career with the Aggies with a bang in a rout of New Orleans, scoring 14 points and collecting four assists. The number that really stuck out from that game though was his six steals, which was the most for an A&M player since Caruso in 2015. He matched the point total a month later against Wofford, also adding four boards in a season-high 35 minutes. Diarra went almost three months without another double-digit scoring outing though, dropping 10 points in an SEC Tournament first round loss to Vanderbilt. It was a trying season for the Aggies, who went 8-10. Diarra finished the year averaging 5.8 points and 2.1 rebounds, showing promise as a freshman.
In his sophomore year, Texas A&M saw more success from the jump, matching their 2021 win total in just 10 games. Diarra didn't eclipse 10 points until the seventh game of the season, when he exploded for a career-best 17 in a consolation win in the Maui Invitational. Things were going great for the Aggies, who had 15 wins through 17 games, which included an eight game winning streak. Diarra wasn’t able to find the same type of personal success though, scoring in double digits in just four of those games. After all their success, A&M hit a brutal stretch that included eight straight losses, five of which left Diarra scoreless. This set of games effectively snuffed the Aggies’ hope of an at-large berth for the NCAA tournament, making the SEC tournament a do or die situation.
Diarra hit his signature three as a part of a 14 point effort against Florida, but only scored three in their next win over No. 4 Auburn. Against No. 15 Arkansas, Diarra notched 12 points, helping his squad to the Finals. The run came to an end though against No. 9 Tennessee, and Texas A&M was sent to the NIT, where they finished as the runner ups. Diarra’s role was much more muted in his sophomore campaign, scoring 6.2 points per game and seeing his minutes diminish from 19 to 15 per game.
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