20190410_MET_CHAMPS_AWE06

Mamadi Diakite holds the championship trophy

Mamadi Diakite, the forward who hit the miracle buzzer-beater to force overtime against Purdue and help keep Virginia’s run to the national championship going, gave Cavaliers’ fans another happy deadline moment Wednesday night, announcing he would withdraw his name from the upcoming NBA draft hours before the midnight deadline.

“I am excited to announce that after testing the waters and getting great exposure and encouraging feedback, I have decided to return to the University of Virginia for my senior year,” Diakite posted on his Instagram account shortly after 11 p.m. “I can’t wait to join my coaches and teammates and get to work as we try to win another one."

The 6-foot-9, 228-pound native of Guinea, Africa averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this season. But it was his game-tying jumper at the buzzer in the Elite Eight against Purdue that forever etched his name into UVA basketball lore.

Diakite is one of four Virginia players who had declared for the draft following Virginia’s national championship season. Junior guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy and sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter kept their names in the draft, ending their college careers.

Hunter is considered a likely lottery pick, Jerome a possible first round-selection and Guy has a chance to be selected in the second round.

The team also loses center Jack Salt, who was a fifth-year senior and sophomore guard Marco Anthony has announced his plan to transfer.

All that equals a potentially massive rebuild at UVA, though Diakite, junior forward Braxton Key and freshman guard Kihei Clark will be the only returners who started games last season.

Coach Tony Bennett, who has not been available to the local media since the team’s championship celebration on April 13, did add a junior college transfer in Tomas Woldetensae as part of the 2019 recruiting class, a group that also includes four-star guard Casey Morsell.

Earlier this week, Marquette transfer Sam Hauser announced that he would be joining the Cavaliers, but under NCAA transfer rules, Hauser will have to sit out the 2019-20 season.

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