Mamadi Diakite returning to Virginia for senior season

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Virginia is losing a lot from the team that claimed the school’s first national title last month, but it is retaining one of the players that was instrumental in claiming that title.

Mamadi Diakite will withdraw from the NBA draft and return to the Cavaliers for his senior season, he announced Wednesday night shortly before the deadline to do so.

“I am excited to announce that after testing the waters and getting great exposure and encouraging feedback,” Diakite wrote on Instagram, “I have decided to return to the University of Virginia for my senior year.

Diakite averaged 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21.8 minutes per game last season for the champs. He shot 55 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the line. His buzzer-beater in the Elite 8 against Purdue was one of the iconic moments of last season’s NCAA tournament, and kept Virginia alive on its ride to the national title.

Coach Tony Bennett already had lost Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter to the NBA draft following cutting down the nets in Minneapolis at US Bank Stadium. With Diakite, Jay Huff, Braxton Key and Kihei Clark, though, Virginia certainly will have enough talent to keep things interesting in the ACC.