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Malick leadership keys UP success

University of the Philippines head coach Goldwin Monteverde did not hold back showering praises to his prized center Malick Diouf.

Monteverde said the Senegalese’s team-first mentality and selfless attitude helped them remain on track of their goal to keep the University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament title in Diliman.

Diouf may not be as explosive as other foreign student-athlete but the intangibles he brings as a leader and a veteran have kept the Fighting Maroons together in Season 85.

“Malick, ever since, his attitude would always be team first. During practices, he would really stress to his team how we should really play the game. He’s always there to remind everybody to execute well on both ends,” Monteverde said.

Diouf posted a career-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, grabbed eight boards, and had five steals to lead UP to a 91-70 blowout of Adamson University on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

His efforts helped the Fighting Maroons extend their winning streak to five for a firm hold of the solo lead with an 8-1 win-loss record.

More importantly, the victory positioned UP just two wins away from clinching one of the two twice-to-beat incentives in the Final Four.

“I think we worked for it. All my teammates, we did it together,” Diouf said as he deflected taking all the credit for the rout.

“We started strong and we finished strong. We did a good job. I’m happy about it also.”

The Season 84 Finals Most Valuable Player has been a silent worker in the UP’s repeat bid.

Diouf has been averaging 8.63 points, 9.63 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.75 blocks per game in the Fighting Maroons’ first eight outings.

Diouf does not mind taking the backseat and allowing his teammates to take the spotlight.

He just wants to fulfill his role for the team as his eyes are fixed on the bigger picture.

“I think, coach said the right things, I’m here to help the team, to handle the guys. Because I think right now, I’m part of the kuyas (big brother),” Diouf said.

His work ethic and dedication earned him high respect from Monteverde.

“I feel very blessed. We are very blessed to have him as part of our team,” Monteverde said.

“It’s rare to see a student-athlete with that kind of selfless attitude. So we are just blessed to have him.”

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