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Former UVa star Mamadi Diakite caps first professional season with NBA championship

Former UVa star Mamadi Diakite caps first professional season with NBA championship

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NBA Finals Suns Bucks Basketball

Bucks forward Mamadi Diakite, second from right, celebrates after Milwaukee defeated the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Mamadi Diakite is making a habit of being part of championship teams.

The former Virginia standout capped a memorable first season of professional basketball on Tuesday night by winning an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee's win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals added to Diakite's rapidly growing list of team championships. 

Team and individual success has been a constant companion for Diakite throughout his basketball journey in the United States. He has now won a championship at every level of basketball he has played in since arriving in the U.S. from his native Guinea.

Diakite's run of titles began in Central Virginia in 2015, when he helped lead Blue Ridge School to the VISAA Division II state championship. Diakite played an integral role in the Barons' run to the state title, averaging 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots per game as Blue Ridge amassed a 22-4 record.

Following that state championship season at Blue Ridge, Diakite moved on to the University of Virginia, where he steadily grew into an impact player during his five years under Tony Bennett's guidance.

After redshirting during the 2015-16 season, Diakite averaged 3.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots as a redshirt freshman as Virginia went 23-11 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Following a solid sophomore season, Diakite etched his name into UVa basketball lore during his junior year when he hit one of the most memorable shots in program history. With the Cavaliers trailing Purdue 70-68 in the final seconds of the 2019 NCAA Tournament South Regional final, Diakite hit the game-tying bucket as time expired to force overtime.

Virginia would go on to win that game en route to capturing the first national championship in program history. Diakite again played a key role, finishing with nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks the Wahoos' win over Texas Tech in the national championship game.

After contemplating turning pro after Virginia's national championship season, Diakite returned for his senior year and thrived in a more prominent role for the Cavaliers, averaging a career-high 13.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while earning All-ACC second-team honors.

Despite a strong senior season at Virginia, Diakite was not chosen in the NBA Draft, leaving him to explore his professional playing options.

Diakite found a home with the Bucks in November, signing a two-way contract with the franchise. After signing with Milwaukee, Diakite joined the Lakeland Magic for the NBA G League season, which was being played a bubble environment in Orlando. The former Cavalier thrived in the bubble, averaging 18.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 2.1 assists per game for Lakeland, earning him spots on the All G League first team, all-rookie team and all-defensive team.

Diakite's success in the G League led to a call-up by the Bucks' main roster in early March. Lakeland went on to win the G League championship, giving Diakite his third major team title and his first as a pro.

The Bucks made Diakite a full member of their roster in April, signing him to a multi-year standard NBA contract. He appeared in 14 games during the regular season for the Bucks, averaging 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Diakite's floor time was more limited in the postseason, where he appeared in seven games during Milwaukee's run to a title. 

Despite the limited playing time, Diakite made history on Tuesday night when the Bucks clinched their first NBA championship in 50 years.

Diakite became the first player in history to win an NCAA championship, a G League championship and an NBA Championship. He also became the first Guinean player to win an NBA title.

Not bad for someone who did not pick up a basketball for the first time until he was 14 years old.

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