It was important that Kansas State transfer Cartier Diarra find the right fit. He has NBA aspirations and didn't want to squander his final season of eligibility on a bench. Even though COVID-19 prevented him from visiting potential suitors — usually a make or break part of the recruiting process — he did his research.
He flipped the script a bit, fired up some game film, and did some scouting of his own.
"I even watched how he coaches his team," said Diarra.
The "he" is Mike Young. Diarra, who committed to the Hokies on Wednesday, noted Young's encouraging courtside demeanor stood out.
"I like his mentality and mindset around it. He stays clapping and cheering for his team regardless of whether or not they make or miss a shot. I will excel in that, knowing myself, how I get down on myself when I miss a shot."
Familiarity with associate head coach Chester Frazier helped seal the deal too. Frazier joined Young's inaugural staff after a stint with K-State (2012-19), and recruited Diarra to the Wildcats.
"He's loyal," said Diarra. "He's easy to talk to. I don't think he'd fabricate anything to me. He told me about Coach Young, and how he coaches."
Even though his minutes oscillated down the stretch, the athletic 6-4 guard averaged 13.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game for the Wildcats last season.
Virginia Tech ranked 14th overall nationally in 3-point attempts, and the freedom to take tough shots and play alongside high-percentage three-point shooters appealed to him too.
"I could fit well in that system and help that team win some games and make a run in the NCAA," said Diarra.
"The way they play defense [in the ACC], I have more driving lanes, more space, more one-on-ones. With also being surrounded by shooters, [Jalen] Cone shot 40 [45.7 percent] last year, a couple of players shot 40 from three last year. Me driving to the basket, [defenders] being scared to help in. If they do help in, that's a kick out, three, most likely going in. Or if they don't help out, I got a layup to the basket."
Of other schools with potential interest — Gonzaga, Seton Hall, Georgia — Diarra said, "None of them sounded as sweet as Virginia Tech."
He noted he noted he could play either guard spot for the Hokies, and in a pinch even played the three and four at K-State.
"He [Young] loves my game and what I bring to the table," said Diarra. "He felt like I definitely could have had a better year, for sure. We talk about even my assists and turnovers. My assist numbers were really high early in the year, they kind of went down, but my turnovers were way too high (led K-State with 3.2 per game). They were careless ones, they weren't forced ones, I could've avoided them. When it comes down to it, he admires how hard I play, my energy, everything I bring to the table. My goal is to be an all-around player, get rebounds, get steals."
Whether it's this year or next, he's also hoping NBA scouts love his game too. He will declare for the NBA draft. That might seem odd on the heels of a commitment announcement, but he wants to receive valuable feedback from the league, and get his name out there.
"If I had the opportunity to go," said Diarra. "I would definitely do it. That's a once in a lifetime chance. I don't think a lot of people turn down a chance to go to the NBA. What I expect to hear is, 'do some more work, holler at me next year'. Right now my plan is to come over there to V-Tech and try to win games."