Virginia Tech Basketball lost one talented scorer in the transfer portal but gained another in former Kansas State guard Cartier Diarra. What impact will he have on the Hokies?
For a minute, shooting guard Cartier Diarra was one of the top players in the NCAA Basketball transfer portal. He left the Kansas State Wildcats after three seasons, averaging 13.3 ppg and 4.2 apg in 31.3 mpg for the 2019-20 season. The team struggled overall and there seemed to have been issues between both Diarra and head coach Bruce Weber. The hope for the rising senior is that things will be better in his next stop for Virginia Tech Basketball.
It was an easy choice for Diarra, reuniting with assistant coach Cheste Frazier, who was previously at Kansas State. The 6’4 guard is a much-needed addition for Virginia Tech, considering that they lost their leading scorer Landers Nolley to the portal over a week.
The Hokies started out strong this past season with a 14-5 record. But the youth and lack of size hurt them in the second half of the year, ending up at 16-16 (7-13) overall. It still has a good first year for head coach Mike Young, who has some solid pieces to work with going forward. Tyrece Radford, Jalen Cone and Nahiem Alleyne were the 2nd, 3rd and 4th leading scorers respectively and are all returning as sophomores next season. Also, Wofford transfer forward Keve Aluma (6.9 ppg and 6.8 rpg) adds much-needed size to the Hokies lineup as well.
But with the departures of both Nolley and guard Isaiah Wilkins, Virginia Tech was lacking both scoring and veteran leadership on the perimeter. Diarra takes care of both of that, while also being a solid enough distributor of the ball to help out starting point guard Wabissa Bede. It’s also important to note that Diarra already has success at the power conference level (Big 12), a difference between him and mid-major transfer guards such as Justin Turner (Bowling Green) and Carlik Jones (Radford). The success rate of transfers is about 50% but the odds go up when players aren’t going up a level instead of staying the same.
Is Diarra enough for Virginia Tech to be an NCAA Tournament team next season? Probably not. But his real purpose is being a talented bridge for the next group of Hokie guards. The team has a pair of top-100 shooting guards joining the team in Joe Bamisile and Darius Maddox. Landing the Kansas State grad transfer isn’t about them not being good enough but rather having the ability to play the duo at their the right pace and not forcing them to take on a role that neither are ready for. Diarra makes the team better now, without sacrificing the future of the Hokies.
Diarra also announced his intentions of entering the NBA Draft waters but the odds of him staying are low. He should be a solid addition for Virginia Tech next season, adding a veteran scorer to keep up with the rest of the ACC. The Hokies showed signs that they’re coming and even without Nolley, will be a force to reckon with in 2020-21.