Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Northern Colorado vs. Ku

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Northern Colorado vs. Ku

Article excerpt

LAWRENCE -- Bill Self hoped his team's opener wouldn't be like this.

The coach will start his 13th season at Kansas on Friday against Northern Colorado, but it's clear the focus still is divided.

That's because freshman Cheick Diallo -- the gem of KU's 2015 recruiting class -- remains ineligible to play as the NCAA investigates his previous coursework.

"All he knows is, 'I grew up in Mali. I left my family to come over here to live out a dream,'" Self said. "'I went to where it was a good school. Now they're saying I can't play because of the school I went to.'

"It's hard for us to understand that, but it's even harder for him if you stop and think about it."

Every night before he goes to bed, Diallo texts Self with the same message: "Coach, what's up?" He texts the same each morning.

It's the 6-foot-9 forward's way of saying he's not going to directly ask his coach about the latest on his situation. Self still tries his to keep him updated.

"I haven't had a lot to give him," Self said.

On Tuesday, Diallo's legal guardian, Tidiane Drame, hired attorney Don Jackson in an effort to make progress on the freshman's case.

In the meantime, Self has been impressed by Diallo, saying KU has benefited by having him in the program.

"He's one of the best role models we've had because nobody -- nobody -- since I've been here for 13 years tries harder academically than he does. Nobody," Self said. "Scooter (KU academic counselor Scott Ward) would tell you the same thing. Our guys see that."

Self has seen Diallo routinely show up 20 minutes early to meetings. He's also one of KU's hardest workers in the weight room.

"He's been a leader for us without question," Self said. "We've benefited by his presence because he's been so good for others to see what real work is -- what trying really is."

Diallo also has been a tough player to keep up with in practice.

"Blocking shots and running the floor, that builds a lot of energy for the team," KU freshman forward Carlton Bragg said, "and we play harder when he does that."

Self says the worst part is hearing Diallo talk about how he doesn't understand what's happening to him. …

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