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Mbacke Diong sticking with UNLV basketball

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Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

UNLV Rebels forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong (34) reacts after drawing a foul on the San Diego State Aztecs during their Mountain West Conference basketball game Saturday, February 23, 2019, at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Mbacke Diong is staying with the Runnin’ Rebels, as the young big man removed his name from the NCAA transfer portal on Saturday, according to a source.

Diong averaged 6.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore last year. He put his name in the portal shortly after Marvin Menzies was fired, but after exploring his transfer options Diong has decided to stay and play for new coach T.J. Otzelberger. 

UNLV now has two open scholarships remaining, with three current Rebels in the transfer portal and two recruits on campus this weekend for official visits.

Diong appeared poised for a breakout campaign in 2018-19, but after a strong start his play leveled off. He moved to the bench briefly when Menzies downsized to a smaller lineup, then returned to the starting lineup for the final 10 contests.

At 6-foot-11, Diong’s calling card is his interior defense. He possesses the athleticism to project as a prototypical rim protector, but his numbers actually dipped on that end of the floor last season; after posting a block rate of 6.8 percent as a freshman, he dropped to 6.6 last year. For the season he averaged 1.5 blocks per game.

Diong joins Amauri Hardy, Bryce Hamilton, Nick Blair and Cheickna Dembele as Rebels who tested the portal and decided to return to UNLV. Shakur Juiston, Joel Ntambwe and Tervell Beck remain in the portal. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua announced that he is transferring to Baylor. 

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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