University of Minnesota head men's basketball coach Richard Pitino is pleased to announce the signing of three student-athletes, Gaston Diedhiou, Bakary Konate and Zach Lofton, to National Letters of Intent. Diedhiou and Konate will join the Golden Gophers on the court for the upcoming 2014-15 season, while Lofton will redshirt this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Diedhiou, a native of Senegal, is a 6'9" forward who most recently played at the Canarias Basketball Academy in Spain under head coach Rob Orellana. Diedhiou is an athletic, physical big man who has the potential to impact both the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Extremely versatile both on and off the court, he can play multiple positions and even more impressively, he is fluent in three languages (French, Spanish, English).
"We are excited about signing Gaston," said Pitino, who recently completed his first year at the helm of Gopher basketball. "He brings a necessary addition to our frontcourt. His size and potential will be a great asset to our team."
A 6'11" center, Konate will join the Gophers following a standout career at the Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kan. Under the tutelage of head coach Kyle Lindsted and assistant coach Luke Barnwell, Konate is praised by the Minnesota coaches for his strong work ethic and athleticism. The Mali native can shoot from distance, but is also lauded for his rebounding and shot blocking ability.
"Bakary has tremendous potential - the sky is the limit for him," Pitino said. "He's a great athlete and shot blocker which is vital in our system. His best days of basketball are certainly ahead of him."
A St. Paul native, Lofton returns home to the Twin Cities following a standout season at Illinois State University, where the 6'4" guard was second on the Redbirds averaging 11.3 points per game. Lofton also contributed 3.0 rebounds per game, 46 assists and 31 steals during his time at ISU. He spent his freshman season at San Jacinto College in Texas, averaging 16.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. In high school, Lofton helped guide Columbia Heights to the Minnesota Class 3A state championship game.
"Zach is a very talented player and has been a proven scorer in a very competitive basketball conference," added Pitino. "He has great size and athleticism. He grew up loving the U and will wear the Minnesota jersey with pride."
The trio adds to the Gophers' 2014 signing class, which includes guards Nate Mason (Decatur, Ga./Arlington Country Day) and Carlos Morris (Apalachicola, Fla./Chipola College) along with forward Josh Martin (Bothell, Wash./Bothell).
"With this signing class, we feel like we have added a great deal of athleticism," added Pitino. "That is extremely important with our style of play and as we continue to build this program."
Along with the newcomers, Minnesota will return four starters and eight letterwinners from the 2013-14 squad which won a school-record 25 games en route to the National Invitation Tournament title.