Queens friends Hassan Diarra, Mouhamed Dioubate reunite in UConn-Alabama March Madness showdown 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Hassan Diarra affectionately referred to Mouhamed Dioubate as his little brother.

Dioubate smiled when asked about their bond, describing Diarra as someone he has looked up to for years.

Saturday night, the Queens friends will meet on the biggest stage of college basketball, when No. 1 Connecticut takes on fourth-seeded Alabama at State Farm Stadium in the Final Four.

Mouhamed Dioubate, a forward for Alabama, faces UConn in the Final Four on Saturday. USA TODAY Sports

“It’s funny, because I never imagined this happening, playing against someone I came up with in the basketball scene,” Dioubate, a reserve freshman forward for the Crimson Tide, said on Friday. “I’m baffled. Words can’t explain how I’m feeling. It’s crazy.”

Diarra, Connecticut’s gritty sixth man, has known Dioubate since he was in the seventh grade.

They both played for Rob Diaz’s NYC Finest AAU program, both eventually moved up to the powerhouse PSA Cardinals and both went to prep school at Putnam Science Academy (Conn.).

The two were highly-regarded four-star recruits who would team up in local park tournaments together when Dioubate, nearly three years Diarra’s junior, played up in age.

When Dioubate committed to Alabama, Diarra was at the ceremony.

Hassan Diarra has emerged as Connecticut’s sixth man this season. AP

“I’ve seen him grow up since he was in seventh grade, so to see him here makes me so happy,” said Diarra, a 6-foot-2 senior guard who leads UConn’s second unit. “I always saw the talent in him. The athleticism has always been there. He’s just becoming a complete player.”

He added: “I’m sure people back in Queens are going to be extremely happy and everybody is going to enjoy Saturday.”

They have avoided talking on the phone since the game was set, but they did see one another in the bowels of State Farm Stadium on Thursday.

Diarra gave the 6-7 Dioubate a glance and a smile and Dioubate responded in kind.

Mouhamed Dioubate and Hassan Diarra (r.) both played for
Rob Diaz’s NYC Finest AAU program. Courtesy of Rob Diaz

After the national semifinal, they will catch up.

Diarra plans to give his close friend a hug.

Before that, though, there will be some trash talk.

“He’s going to hear it from me in the game,” Diarra said jokingly. “He knows it’s coming. I don’t know [what I’m going to say], whatever comes to mind.”

Hassan Diarra spent two seasons at Texas A&M before transferring to UConn. USA TODAY Sports

Asked what message he would like to send Diarra, Dioubate said: “I hope ya’ll ready.”

There is an added wrinkle to this reunion.

Diarra’s older brother, Mamadou, is Connecticut’s director of player development.

He got his start with Diaz as well.

Mouhamed Dioubate has averaged 3.0 points per game during his freshman season with the Crimson Tide. AP

“For me, it’s triple the honor,” said Diaz, a retired police officer. “That makes it even more special to have three guys involved in a Final Four game.”

Diaz is planning to watch the game as a neutral observer.

He would like to see a close game and for both of his former players to do well.

To see them on this stage is a victory in itself.

“Those guys were always committed to get better. That’s what made me feel positive their journey was going to be a fun one and it can be a long one,” he said. “It’s going to be great to see both of them play against each other.”

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