UNLV's Cheikh Mbacke Diong enters transfer portal, will also declare for 2021 NBA draft

UNLV senior Cheikh Mbacke Diong told ESPN he will enter the NCAA transfer portal and explore exercising his extra year of eligibility but will also declare for the NBA draft.

Diong, a Mountain West Conference All-Defensive team selection this past season, turned 21 in December and was one of the youngest seniors in college basketball.

"They gave us an extra year to make up for COVID, which is why I'm considering coming back to college," Diong told ESPN. "My main focus is on being a pro, and entering the transfer portal is an option for me to evaluate the opportunity that I have of coming back to college -- not just UNLV but any school that wants me."

Diong averaged 8.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 block in 28 minutes per game this season, shooting 61% from the field.

At 6-foot-11 with a 7-3 wingspan, Diong will be a sought-after transfer should he elect to return to college. Few players in the transfer portal offer his versatility defending on the perimeter and his experience; he has played 116 games and logged over 2,500 minutes in four seasons with the Rebels.

"If I decided to return to college, I want to go to a winning program that goes to the NCAA tournament," he said. "Having more visibility is a big thing for me. Also somewhere where they can develop me and showcase my potential -- what I can bring to the table defensively and offensively."

As a sophomore, Diong started 22 of 27 games, mostly in front of backup Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who just won a national championship at Baylor behind two outstanding games in the Final Four.

"I am really happy for my former teammate Jonathan -- aka 'Everyday John,'" Diong said. "He's a hardworking guy and a great human being. I'm happy for him being a national champion. That's the dream of every college player. I would think of doing something similar -- being in a place where you can express yourself and play free, play hard, where everyone competes on every possession, where the work does the noise. That would be a great situation."