Before his junior year, Shaq Diboti-Lobe transferred from Churchill to Whitman and joined a team coming off a Maryland 4A final appearance. Though he played AAU, he hadn't played high school basketball before; as a freshman he was cut from the Bulldogs' junior varsity team.
He was ready to contribute in his first season with the Bethesda school, but he didn't realize how big a role he'd end up playing. Before the season, the Vikings lost two of their top players. Point guard Kyle DePollar transferred to Montrose Christian and another guard, Jake Kuhn, tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
"The team that I had in mind, that I thought we were going to have, that didn't happen at all," Diboti-Lobe said.
Without DePollar and Kuhn, there was a gaping hole in the Whitman lineup. Diboti-Lobe was ready to fill it. The 6-foot-4 guard transitioned into a primary scoring role, averaging 14.8 points in his breakout junior campaign. Three times he went up against his former school, and each time, including a first-round playoff game, the Vikings were victorious.
"I felt like I could step up and play that role and I felt like I was ready to do that," he said. "I didn't think there was an adjustment. I felt like I was ready coming in."
Diboti-Lobe has been a more complete player for the Vikings (5-4) this season, Coach Chris Lun said. His defense, rebounding and passing have all improved, and he's learning how to score more efficiently, averaging 20.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals. He had a team-high 20 points in Tuesday's 61-57 win over Landon.
"I feel like I'm much more aggressive now," Diboti-Lobe said. "I'm much more confident, a better shooter a better dribbler. Just all around, just better."
Not that Diboti-Lobe didn't think he was good back when he was a few inches shorter, and deemed unworthy of a JV roster spot at his former school. To this day, he still feels he was better than the kids that made it, he said.
But that's in the past. Now, Diboti-Lobe is focused on college and his final varsity season. He has an offer from Assumption College (Mass.) and is generating interest from other Division II and Division I schools. He's also considering prep school at Arlington Country Day School, which would give him a year to refine his already growing skill set. Whatever college path Diboti-Lobe takes, he still has a half season left of high school basketball. Having started two years late, he's trying to make the most of the time he has left.
"My goal [for] the team is to make a big run to the playoffs. Or reach Xfinity Center," Diboti-Lobe said. "As a player, it's to be a good leader and just help my teammates get better and go from there."
NUMBER CRUNCH: 3
Number of goals from Patrick Giles as No. 4 Landon (8-0) skated to a 6-3 victory over St. Albans.
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