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Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite becomes latest member of national champions to declare for NBA draft

Redshirt junior forward Mamadi Diakite announced he is declaring for the NBA draft, marking the fourth Virginia starter in three days to do so. (David J. Phillip/AP)

Virginia forward Mamadi Diakite announced Wednesday on Instagram that he is declaring for the NBA draft, making him the fourth Cavaliers player in three days to decide to leave school early on the heels of the program’s national championship run.

Diakite, a 6-foot-9 redshirt junior, played a significant role during the NCAA tournament, most notably making a buzzer-beating jumper in the South Region final to force overtime. The top-seeded Cavaliers went on to defeat No. 3 seed Purdue, 80-75, to reach the school’s first Final Four since 1984.

“I have grown so much from my first day on Grounds both on and off the court, which is why I am confident in announcing my intentions to declare for the NBA Draft,” Diakite wrote.

Guard Ty Jerome, a junior, and forward De’Andre Hunter, a redshirt sophomore, announced Monday they would be declaring for the draft. The following day, junior guard Kyle Guy did the same while leaving open the possibility of coming back for his senior year.

Diakite had been a reserve for much of the season until Coach Tony Bennett elevated him into the starting lineup in the round of 32 against Oklahoma. The promotion came after Diakite recorded 17 points and nine rebounds in the first round during a 71-56 win against No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb.

The native of Guinea had a season-high five blocks in the national semifinals when the Cavaliers beat Auburn, 63-62. Diakite finished with 16 blocks in six games in the NCAA tournament.

Diakite averaged career highs this season of 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 21.8 minutes. He shot 55.7 percent for his career and started 23 of 104 games.

The somewhat unexpected announcement, in the wake of the others, could leave Virginia with just one starter returning for next season, freshman guard Kihei Clark.

Diakite has until May 29 to withdraw his name from consideration for the draft, at which time he also must end relationships with any agents to regain NCAA eligibility.

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