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Mamadi Diakite declares for the NBA Draft

The junior forward joins three other Cavaliers in declaring

<p>Junior forward Mamadi Diakite joins three of his teammates in declaring for the NBA Draft.</p>

Junior forward Mamadi Diakite joins three of his teammates in declaring for the NBA Draft.

Junior forward Mamadi Diakite announced Wednesday afternoon that he is declaring for the NBA Draft, joining three of his teammates — junior guard Ty Jerome and sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter, who declared Monday, and junior guard Kyle Guy, who declared Tuesday.

Diakite played a critical role in the Cavaliers’ championship season, improving significantly from last season. After averaging 5.4 points per game and 3.0 rebounds per game last season, he averaged 7.4 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game this year.

He earned a starting role for Virginia down the stretch, starting in the Cavaliers’ last five NCAA Tournament games. In addition to improving his mid-range jumper and inside scoring, Diakite became a much better defender, doing a better job staying out of foul trouble and utilizing his athleticism to become a great shot blocker for Virginia. He had 16 blocks in the NCAA Tournament, including seven blocks in the Final Four.

Diakite also came up with one of the most memorable moments in the NCAA Tournament, making a buzzer-beater against Purdue to save the Cavaliers’ season and propel them to victory in overtime. Diakite’s shot helped Virginia advance to the first Final Four since 1984, and he contributed significantly in helping the Cavaliers win the first National Championship in program history.

In his post on Instagram in which he announced his intention to declare for the NBA Draft, he made it clear how grateful he was for the opportunity to play at Virginia.

“I have grown so much from my first day on Grounds both on and off the court which is why I am confident in announcing my intentions to declare for the NBA Draft,” Diakite said.

Diakite still has the opportunity to come back to Virginia if he isn’t drafted. The NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 20, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.