Sophomore Rob Diggs averaged just seven minutes a game last year – not because he was not good enough to contribute, but because there was no room for him on the court. Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Omar Williams, Mike Hall and Alex Kireev were all frontcourt players and all seniors; Diggs would have to wait his turn.
Diggs’ turn has come this year. The 6-foot-8 forward has shown both potential for the future and the ability to contribute now, head coach Karl Hobbs said.
During the first two games of the GW men’s basketball team’s season, he has done everything a big man needs to: rebound, block shots and score in the low post, and has done so with an aggressiveness and explosiveness reminiscent of his former teammates. Rebounds are grabbed seemingly above the basket, blocked shots fly clear out of bounds and dunks are punctuated with a scream.
The aggressiveness has also been controlled, keeping Diggs out of foul trouble and on the floor (he has averaged more than 30 minutes a game so far this year).
“He has improved immensely,” Hobbs said after Tuesday night’s 45-point victory over Dartmouth College. “What has been great is he spent the year playing behind Mike, Omar and Pops, and I think it was a great experience for him.”
Diggs, who was not made available to media, has had to play power forward for the now frontcourt-deprived Colonials, but he is more of a small forward. He looked comfortable and confident hitting a long two-pointer and swishing a turnaround jumper against Dartmouth. Big Green’s frontcourt is slow and untalented, but having those shots in his arsenal may be enough to keep better players off-balance.
“I think he’s a very effective shooter,” Hobbs said. “He’s really becoming a complete player in terms of being able to play around the perimeter as well as go inside and post up.”
Against Boston University, NBA scouts who came to see senior guard Carl Elliott took notice of Diggs’ play, saying that they were impressed by his length and all-around game.
The true indication of how far Diggs has come, Hobbs said, will be when he plays bigger, more talented frontcourts, such as Xavier’s. Diggs weighs just 187 pounds – less than 13 of the 15 players on Xavier’s 15-man roster (even 6-foot-3 guard Stanley Burrell outweighs Diggs by about 20 pounds). Inevitably, stronger players will push around Diggs – the key is whether he folds or pushes back.
Hobbs said he thought the challenge would be strictly defensive.
“I think offensively he’ll always be more than fine against the guys we’ll play,” Hobbs said.”
Over the next three seasons, Diggs will likely follow in Mensah-Bonsu’s footsteps and put on muscle under the guidance of GW strength and conditioning coach Mark Bearden.
For now, Diggs will have to manage with what he has. So far, he’s managed just fine.