Ibrahima Djimde is a 6'-9" power forward who fits the tough banger description Illini fans and coaches have been looking for. Huntington Prep head coach Rob Fulford said Ibby is excited to be a part of the Illinois family. He discussed how the commitment happened.
"Yesterday he had his SAT in the morning. We met with him in between SAT prep, the SAT test, and prom. We went over the two visits and what he liked about both. We talked about which school he felt he would fit in better. He made the decision to commit to Illinois."
What was the deciding factor for Illinois over Old Dominion?
"I think it was the comfort level with the players and how he was received from the other players. D.J. Richardson was his host. We played against him a few years ago when he was at Findlay Prep. He seemed like a good kid.
Djimde was appreciative of how D.J. reached out to him to see if he needed anything. He called and checked on him. Those kids are big into relationships, and I think they did a great job of developing a relationship with Ibby, from Coach (Bruce) Weber down. That was the deciding factor the relationship he built with them."
A key part of the decision-making process was the fact Djimde felt he has the talent to play at the high major level.
"We felt playing at Illinois and Old Dominion were two different levels. I told Ibby, you went up there and played with those guys. If you feel you can play with them, it makes sense to go to the higher level. He felt very comfortable he could go in and be a significant contributor next year."
Part of the way he learned this was scrimmaging against several of the Illini players while on his visit. Fulford says he held his own and is not afraid because he is used to playing against elite talent.
"He is used to it because he does it here every day. With our schedule, the majority of them are high major kids. There wasn't going to be an intimidation factor to him. He left with the same mindset that he was going to play. He played well."
The Illinois coaching staff did a superb job of building a relationship with Djimde and his inner circle.
"It was quick. With the time frame the NCAA allows you, they have to get in as much as they can. I think they did a good job of building a relationship with the whole circle. From me to our assistant coaches and everyone involved. It was one of those things of when they got in, and on a visit they made him feel welcome."
The coaching staff at Huntington believes Djimde is ready for the Big 10.
"We feel we have prepared him for a high major level with the high major players he went up against every day. Some people may say he is an undersized center, but he has been scoring against a 7'-4" 350 pound center every day in practice. Size is not going to bother him."
What role does Fulford see for the newest Illini?
"I would think at the beginning he will be an energy guy. He has things he needs to develop with his face-up game, but those things are coming. He will continue to get better each year at Illinois. He will probably start out as a center and then develop into a power forward that can step out and make some plays."
Djimde will be on campus in Champaign in the near future.
"I'm sure we will get him in summer school. I don't anticipate he is going to go home. He will stay here until summer school starts. We will keep working him out and putting him through our strength and conditioning program."
The Illinois coaches and fans alike have been looking for a player like Djimde for a while.
"One thing you get with Ibby is he plays hard on both ends. There is always a place for someone like that."
Yes there is, and Illinois is happy to have him as the final piece in their class of 2011.