Evaluating Mamadi Diakite, Devin Vassell, and Braxton Key

February 2nd, 2020

by Alan Lu

I had wanted to see Florida State play against the defending NCAA champions, the Virginia Cavaliers in an ACC college basketball game, but had previously been unable to do so as it coincided with the NBA Thursday meetup. There I decided to watch this game now through WatchESPN, as it was a very competitive match that went all the way to the wire that featured numerous prospects, and Virginia was able to hold on to get the victory, as they received standout performances from Mamadi Diakite, Braxton Key, and Kihei Clark, while Devin Vassell played well for Florida State. Here are my thoughts on how they fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Virginia's redshirt senior big man, Mamadi Diakite played very well in his team's win over Florida State.  (Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images, via FanDuel.)
Virginia’s redshirt senior big man, Mamadi Diakite played very well, as he was an excellent marksman from downtown in his team’s win over Florida State. (Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images, via FanDuel.)

Virginia’s 6-9 redshirt senior big man, Mamadi Diakite played very well in his team’s victory over Florida State, as he showed off solid all-around skills, and especially excelled as a marksman to provide strong floor spacing for his team.

Diakite shot the ball really well, as he really excelled at making open, spot-up threes off the catch. He especially had a penchant for making corner threes from beyond the arc. He also made an open long two, as he has a silky smooth jump shot. He struggled more to make jumpers off the dribble or on the move though, as he looked to be more comfortable making jump shots when he would have ample time and space to get his shot off.

He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays. Diakite was able to run in to get an offensive rebound, and he immediately scored on a two-handed put back dunk afterwards.

Plus, Diakite also displayed decent low post scoring skills. He was able to pivot to score on a drop step, step-through move off the glass, and he also drew free throws on a turnaround jumper. However, he also missed on a jump hook another time, and his footwork looked awkward at times when he would look to score from the block.

Also, he displayed fairly average playmaking skills in this game. Diakite managed to throw a long outlet pass to a teammate ahead on the break to notch an assist. However, he did commit a couple of turnovers, though. He got tied up on an offensive rebound, in which though possession arrow went to the other team. Another play, he was called for a traveling violation after using a spin move on a drive to the basket.

Also, Diakite did a decent job of rebounding the basketball. He would actively look to crash the glass, as he would chase down balls to get plenty of boards on both ends of the floor.

Adding to that, Diakite also showed off decent defensive skills. He is an active help defender that would tend to be in good position. He was able to recover to make a terrific chase down block on a roll to a teammate, and he also would deflect plenty of passes. He also managed to poke a ball away out of bounds, as he has good length, athleticism, and anticipation skills to do so. He also managed to successfully draw a charge when defending on a baseline drive, and he also would contest shots off the dribble as well as on jumpers to force misses. However, he also struggled to defend quicker players out on the perimeter. He didn’t show great lateral quickness when guarding on there, as he would commit fouls and allow scores, and he also bit on a ball fake that led him to allow a basket to an opponent on an up and under leaner move. Other times, he would give up too much space to shooters, which would cause him to allow them to score on jumpers.

In general, Mamadi Diakite has made strides to improve as an overall player, as he really has improved his jump shot this season. He has a variety of skills that enable him to help out in a number of ways, and his strong shooting ability and solid rebounding and defensive skills enabled him to help Virginia get a much needed win over Florida State. Right now, he may still have to improve his ability to create his own shot to score in one-on-one situations, and he’ll have to show that he can consistently guard quicker players in space. Still, his ability to shoot and defend in the paint could enable him to be a second round pick this year, as he could end up being a rotation level big man in the NBA similar to former Phoenix Suns player, Jon Leuer in the association.

Florida State's sophomore swingman, Devin Vassell showed off versatile scoring skills in his team's loss to Virginia.   (Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports, via Tallahassee Democrat.)
Florida State’s sophomore swingman, Devin Vassell showed off versatile scoring skills in his team’s loss to Virginia. (Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports, via Tallahassee Democrat.)

Florida State’s sophomore swingman, Devin Vassell also put forth a good performance in his team’s loss to Virginia. He showed off versatile scoring skills, and he played a fairly good all-around game, as he was able to make solid plays on both ends of the court.

Vassell did a decent job of knocking down jumpers to provide floor spacing for his team on offense. He excelled at knocking down open, spot-up threes off the catch, and he has a fairly quick release on his shot. He also can make quick dribble moves, which enabled him to score on smooth pull-up jumpers from just inside the arc. He can be streaky with his jump shot, but he did a good job of making jump shots both off the catch and dribble.

He also excelled as a scorer in transition. Vassell was able to score on a smooth, finger roll layup off of a drive on the break, and he also ran the floor to score on a thunderous, two-handed slam another time.

Also, he displayed solid playmaking skills. Vassell is a good passer off the dribble, as he can find open teammates on the move to set up scores for them. He also sees the floor well, and he will make the extra pass to keep the ball moving. There were times where he would throw up for grabs passes, and he also was able to get away with a push off when handling the ball once, but Vassell also did a very good job of not turning the ball over once in this game.

Plus, he also did a good job of rebounding the basketball. He would frequently chase down balls and leap up to get defensive boards to help his team on the glass, and he also brought the ball up once off of a rebound.

Defensively, he looked to be fairly average. For the positives, Vassell is a rangy defender that can make plays on the ball to force turnovers. He was able to rotate to poke a ball away from an opposing ball handler to get a steal, and he also intercepted a pass that was thrown right to him to collect another. He also will look to challenge shots, as he was able to contest a three as well as a shot off of a drive to force misses. However, he also had trouble guarding quicker players off of drives as he would tend to get beat off the dribble, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

In summary, Devin Vassell showed off versatile scoring skills, and he also passed and rebounded the ball well in his team’s loss to Virginia. He is an athletic swingman that has the potential to excel on both ends of the floor at the next level, and he could be a good value pick for a team in the late first to the second round range of the upcoming draft, as he could end up being a similar player to current San Antonio Spurs guard, Lonnie Walker in the NBA.

Virginia's senior forward, Braxton Key played fairly well in his team's win over Florida State.  (Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports, via The Tallahassee Democrat.)
Virginia’s senior forward, Braxton Key played fairly well in his team’s win over Florida State. (Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports, via The Tallahassee Democrat.)

Virginia’s 6-8 senior forward, Braxton Key also played fairly well in his team’s win over Florida State. He made solid plays on both ends of the floor, as he was able to help get his team a big victory over their conference opponent.

Key showed a good ability to score on hustle plays. He was able to sprint down court to score on a drive in transition, and he also scored on a strong baseline cut another time. He also drew free throws off of another aggressive cut to the hoop, but he also missed once off of a cut due to rushing his shot on a separate occurrence.

He also did a decent job of scoring on strong drives to the basket.   Key was able to score on an open layup from the baseline, and he also threw down a powerful two-handed dunk off of another drive. He also showed a knack for drawing fouls upon his defenders, but sometimes he would miss shots in traffic, as he had a couple of his shots blocked. He didn’t look to take many jumpers from outside of the paint area, but he missed on a step back, long two-point shot from just inside the arc.

On the downside, Key was quite turnover prone in this game. On the plus side, he can throw accurate passes off the dribble, as he can find open shooters to set up scoring chances for them. He also threw a crisp, entry pass that helped lead to a score another time. However, he tended to have the ball poked away when trying to drive to the hoop in traffic, and he also was called for a charging foul when looking to score on a floater on a separate play.

Also, Key did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He would often leap up to get defensive boards, and he would tend to bring the ball up the floor to show his ball handling skills. He even ran in to save a ball to a teammate to help his team get a defensive board, as that was due to possessing good motor, awareness, and instincts to do so.

He also played decent defense in this game. Key is an active help defender that would tend to be in good position defensively. He managed to rotate to block a shot hard off of a drive to a teammate. He also successfully drew a charge when defending an opposing ball handler another time. He also managed to deflect a pass, as he will play passing lanes. Plus, he also would use his length to contest jumpers to force some misses.   Sometimes though, he would give up too much space to shooters, which would allow them to score on jumpers. On another play, he got beat off the dribble, which led to a pass that set up a dunk for an opponent.

Overall, Braxton Key played fairly well, as he excelled at attacking the basket, rebounding and defending. He will need to improve his jump shot in the meantime, as he will have to be more of a 3 and D type of player at the next level. It’s uncertain if his game will fit in today’s NBA, but if he can make strides to improve his long-range jumper and free throw shooting, Key could end being an effective role player in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Virginia’s 5-9 sophomore point guard, Kihei Clark is a quick, agile playmaker that excelled at scoring on tough drives to the basket, as he has very good footwork and set of dribble moves, and he was able to score on acrobatic layups around the basket.   He would drive in aggressively, and he showed a good ability to get to the free throw line, and he also was able to throw a nice lob pass to set up an alley-oop dunk for his teammate, Jay Huff. On the downside, Clark was unable to make any of his threes from beyond the arc.

Overall, Clark is an athletic, skilled point guard that has solid handles and can quickly get into the lane to get scores and assists, and his ability to move in tight spaces and accelerate makes him a better athlete than he appears. While his lack of size may prevent him from going high in the draft as an underclassman, Clark’s solid ability to score and distribute the basketball combined with having fairly good athletic gifts could enable him to carve out a role as a backup point guard in the NBA.