N’Faly Dante, a 6-foot-10, 225-pound, 16-year-old sophomore center from Wichita’s Sunrise Academy, had more blocked shots (five) than baskets (four) in MoKan Elite’s 66-60 victory over the Colorado Hawks in the showcase game of the KC Classic AAU tournament Saturday night at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.
The big man from Mali, who is being recruited by Kansas, Kentucky and many others, said the handful of rejections came by design.
Another player from Mali — former KU forward Cheick Diallo of the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans — recently told Dante to start focusing on the defensive end of the court.
“He tells me I have to be physical and rebound. As a big man, you have to focus on rebounding and blocking shots. I’ve done much better the last two weeks,” said Dante, the No. 4-ranked player in the recruiting Class of 2020 according to Rivals.com.
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Dante — he grabbed nine rebounds and scored eight points in Saturday’s win over Colorado — said the 6-9 Diallo hasn’t counseled him yet about the recruiting process.
“We talk about my game and a lot of stuff. I am not thinking about college right now. I just want to get better every day, every day,” Dante said.
“He’s my brother,” Dante added of Diallo. “I always call him that. We are so close. He likes to help me. He said it’s not easy to play here. You have to focus on school and basketball.”
Dante — who arrived from Mali two years ago, first attending a school in Alabama before transferring to Sunrise Christian — said he’s working hard on his academics.
“My English is not that good. I’ve got to focus on school. I love basketball but I want to get better at English,” Dante said.
Dante attended last year’s Late Night in the Phog on an unofficial visit to KU.
“Oh it was crazy,” he said with a smile.
Dante’s Sunrise Christian Academy teammate, Malik Hall, scored seven points for MoKan Elite in Saturday’s victory.
Hall, a 6-7 junior small forward, is considering KU, Oregon, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Missouri, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Villanova, Purdue and others. He’s the No. 48-rated player in the recruiting Class of 2019.
“I think it was awesome,” Hall said of playing in Lawrence on Saturday. “It’s my second or third time here. It was fun coming back. Most of the people (on MoKan team) are from the area. It’s nice to get a crowd to cheer for us.”
Hall attended KU’s home victory over Oklahoma last season on an unofficial recruiting visit.
“It was packed, loud,” Hall said, agreeing with Dante’s assessment that the atmosphere at a KU hoops game or Late Night is “crazy.”
The KC Classic AAU tournament, which started Friday, will conclude Sunday. No Division I coaches have been in attendance in accordance with NCAA rules. It is currently a quiet period on the recruiting calendar.