Conventional wisdom screams that Baye Fall and Assane Diop are a package deal. But that package ain’t telling.
“There’s going to be surprises,” Fall said of Tuesday afternoon, when the No. 1 and No. 2 basketball prospects in the state of Colorado — Fall and fellow Accelerated Prep big man Assane Diop — will reveal their collegiate choices. “It’s going to be real surprising that day.”
“I think some won’t be (surprised),” the 6-foot-10 Diop added with a slight chuckle. “But a lot of people will be like, ‘What?’”
Arkansas, Auburn, Rutgers and Seton Hall are the 6-10 Fall’s reported four finalists. Diop is down to the Razorbacks, CU and Seton Hall.
Diop visited Boulder officially; Fall didn’t. Both Senegal natives took trips to Arkansas and Auburn, which are the assumed favorites to land one — or the pair — early next week.
Although Fall would like to offer up a quick word for those who assume first and ask questions later.
“People have their theories and stuff,” he said. “But it’s us that are making the decision. Us and our families. Outside people have got their favorites. We know.”
They do. And while they’re not tipping any hands, those who understand the two high-flying teens best can’t really imagine them apart. In basketball or in life.
“It’s like they’re twin brothers, wherever they go,” Accelerated Prep coach Mike Haynes said. “So when you’re not together, your day doesn’t feel right.”
Haynes has known both prospects since they arrived in the United States about four years ago. His visage is of a duo who’ve become as close as blood brothers, the coach said, both on and off the court.
As much as their playing styles — Fall likes to assert himself on the floor while Diop prefers to blend, read the moment, and then strike — blend seamlessly, each of their personalities also fits the other like a glove.
Fall, whose prep ascent launched at Lutheran, can be mercurial; Diop, formerly of Belleview Christian, is the more even-keeled rock of the two, the one who keeps things from going off the rails. Which is why the slightly taller Baye jokingly refers to Assane as his “little big brother.”
“He’s just a special guy,” Fall said of Diop. “He kind of gets me back on track, like the times when I’m doing the things I’m not supposed to be doing or (if) I make a couple mistakes.”
Diop knows. He’s known for a couple weeks now, actually.
“For the people I’m living with, it wasn’t that big of a secret,” said Diop, who fielded nearly two dozen offers before settling on his final three. “Because they have an idea what (I was) thinking about. But they still don’t know if I’m really (serious).”
Fall said while he was leaning one way earlier this fall, clarity really only came in recent days. And with a program that ticked every box.
“(I wanted) a great fit for my playing style,” Fall explained. “Somewhere that I’m going to be held accountable and … (will help me) be able to just get to the next level the best way possible.
“Some program that I can learn a lot from in the time I spend with them. Especially a program that’s going to help me get my degree, so that even if I go pro, I can come back and get my degree. Or if I have to do it over (those undergrad) four years, just those four years.”
Fall plans to major in business or art, twin passions that bridge the two sides of his brain to his family’s work — his father in Senegal was an architect. The state’s top prospect fell in love with drawing and working with clay before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
A warrior poet in his spare time, Fall draws inspiration off the court from a fairly eclectic body of works — anything from Picasso to former NBA big man Tim McCormick’s book, “Never Be Average” to the lyrics of rapper Lil Baby.
“The music (Lil Baby) makes, the stuff he speaks about, it gets me hyped,” Fall explained, “or it just (deals with) some things that I can relate to.”
Fall knows. Haynes swears he doesn’t. But he offered up a reasonable guess anyway.
“I’ve been asking them, trying to figure it out,” Haynes laughed. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot, kind of playing devil’s advocate.
“And I assume, and in my mind, that they would like to stay together. So I would assume that it would be Arkansas or Seton Hall.”
Like the kid said, people have their theories. Still.
“Personally, I think their style of play fits the Big East, so that one makes sense to me,” Haynes continued. “But I know the SEC also makes sense, because they’re also the sort of bigs that they have (in that league).