Get to know Wolves second-round pick Keita Bates-Diop
First things first: There’s an interesting story behind the “Diop.”
Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Keita Bates-Diop isn’t the product of a hyphenated household — his parents both use the surname “Bates” — but was instead named for Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop.
“He impacted me a great deal,” Bates-Diop’s father, Richard Bates, told Bloomington, Ill., newspaper The Pantagraph in 2012.
The elder Bates, now a lawyer, played for Creighton from 1979-83, averaging 9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game as a senior.
Bates-Diop shares his father’s academic chops. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Ohio State in less than four years.
He was pretty good on the court, too.
The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, Bates-Diop averaged 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season, while shooting 48 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from deep.
Those figures were enough to earn him the following honors: First Team All-Big Ten, Associated Press Second Team All-America, Sporting News Second Team All-America, USBWA Second Team All-America, NABC Second Team All-America, Wooden Award All-America.
However, just last year his future as a basketball player was up in the air.
Bates-Diop’s younger brother, Kai, suffers from a genetic heart condition, revealed after he went into cardiac arrest on the court as a 16-year-old in 2017. A few weeks later, Bates-Diop himself was tested.
“It was a 50-50 chance I had it at that point,” he said. “It was one of the longest days of my life. … When they came back and said I was fine, I was like, ‘Thank God.’ It was something I couldn’t control. There was nothing I could do. My whole [basketball] career was up to chance.”
All that while dealing with a stress fracture in his left knee that caused Bates-Diop to miss all but nine games of his junior season and take a medical redshirt.
He broke through the following season, leading a Buckeyes squad that went 17-15 the year before to the NCAA tournament where they beat South Dakota State then fell to Gonzaga.
Bates-Diop came to play in his final college game, scoring 28 points and hitting four 3-pointers in that loss to Gonzaga. He’d scored a career-high 35 points a month earlier, in a win over Illinois.
It was around that time that Bates-Diop began rising in mock drafts, peaking just outside the lottery, before eventually settling towards the tail end of the first round.
Draftniks had the Timberwolves taking him with the 20th pick as recently as June 20, the day before the draft.