2013 All-Area Girls Basketball Team: El Rancho’s Khadidja Diakite tops Whittier Daily News picks

El Rancho High’s Khadidja Diakite has been selected as the Whittier Daily News’ Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year. (Leo Jarzomb / Staff photographer)

Photo gallery: 2013 Whittier Daily News All-Area Girls Basketball Team

Player of the Year: KHADIDJA DIAKITE, El Rancho

El Rancho High School’s girls basketball team managed to make some history this season with senior forward Khadidja Diakite leading the way.

Diakite averaged team-highs in 20.3 points and 12 rebounds per game to lead the Dons to a 22-6 overall record and a co-Del Rio League championship. It marked the first league crown in 21 years for El Rancho, whose 22 wins were a school record.

Diakite, the only area player to post double-digit averages in both points and rebounds, went on to capture the Del Rio’s most valuable player award and first-team All-CIF honors.

For putting together an impressive season, Diakite was named the Daily News girls basketball player of the year.

“We achieved a lot of our goals this season,” Diakite said. “We made history here at El Rancho. We haven’t done that in a long time. I’m proud of my teammates because we achieved a lot of goals and things worked out the way we wanted them to.

“We had a lot of ups and downs but in the end, we all worked together as a family and we won the league title.”

The 2012-13 season also showed how long Diakite has come in a short time. Diakite, a three-year varsity player, has been playing basketball for just four years.

“My sister (Aisha) played and I thought that I might as well try it out,” Diakite said. “I decided to do it to lose weight. It ended up being something I loved and something I was very good at. At first, I didn’t think I was going to like it but once I got into it, I loved it. It’s something that’s a part of me now.”

Diakite, who averaged 2.5 steals, 2.2 blocks and two assists per contest, also contributed from outside as she delivered 31 three-pointers. She also led the Dons to their first tournament win as a program, which came at the Las Vegas Tournament. Diakite won the tournament’s MVP award.

“She pretty much was our do-it-all player,” El Rancho coach Randy Shigezane said of Diakite. “She pretty much played all positions for us. She has been a special kid to work with on the varsity team for three years. She’s a great leader and captain – she took on that role wholeheartedly. She had a fantastic season.”

Diakite said she is planning to play basketball in college. Cal State Stanislaus and Cal State Dominguez Hills are two of the schools she is considering.

“I like to stay close to home,” Diakite said. “One of my coaches played (at CS Stanislaus) and she said she had a good experience there and I’m hoping for the same.”

Diakite said she would like to work in the medical field.

“My main interest is psychology, nursing or anything in the medical field,” she said. “My dad (Yaya) works in the medical field. The medical field will always have jobs and I’m hoping to make a good income.”

When she gets ready for a game, Diakite concentrates on the important business at hand.

“I just keep my positive thoughts,” said Diakite, who scored a season-high 30 points in a 39-36 win over Whittier. “I focus on the game and what I have to do to score and what I have to do to help my teammates score. I envision ourselves winning and don’t think about losing.”

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