Can Khalifa Diop win again the Rising Star trophy?

Bojan Dubljevic is the only player who won 2 Rising Star awards in Eurocup, this year we have 2 candidates to equal his number of awards, but only one can have them consecutively, just like Bojan, Khalifa Diop.

The Senegalese, last year’s Rising Star Eurocup winner, born on January 15, 2002, is an important player in the rotation of Gran Canaria and he is the type of modern center. In this Eurocup season in 18 matches, he played an average of 18:57 minutes, having 8.7 points and 5.1 rebounds with 65.2% at 2 points but only 40/62 at free throws. The best offensive performance of the season came in the 6th round against those from Trento with 21 points and 6 rebounds; in the 10th round against Slask Wroclaw in just 18 minutes he had 17 points and 9 rebounds. In Liga Endesa, he has 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 20 minutes.

On 28 March 2019, Diop made his senior debut for Gran Canaria, recording three points and four rebounds in a 90–55 loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the EuroLeague. Diop was named ACB All-Young Players Team for the 2021–22 season. Diop was drafted 39th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cavaliers announced a few days later that Diop would not join the Cavaliers roster and would stay in the Spanish League.

Diop represented Senegal at the 2019 FIBA ​​Under-19 World Cup in Heraklion. He averaged 13.1 points, 7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, but Senegal finished without a win in a group with the USA, New Zealand and Lithuania. Diop helped Senegal win the silver medal at the 2020 FIBA ​​U18 African Championship in Egypt, where he averaged 12.6 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.4 steals per game. At the 2021 FIBA ​​Under-19 Basketball World Cup in Latvia, he averaged 14 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, losing in the quarter-finals against the USA 58-88, Diop had 20 points and 12 rebounds.

An impressive prospect with true center size, Diop is a high-level rebounder and a decent defender. If he manages to improve his free throw shooting and passing ability, there are chances that he will become a really good center.

Valentin Petruta

Photo credit: Eurocup