Privateers sign 6-6 wing out of North Platte Community College with two years of eligibility remaining
NEW ORLEANS – Following a season that saw the University of New Orleans men’s basketball team win the Southland Conference regular-season and tournament titles, the program added another “champion” to its annals as Diontae Champion inked a National Letter of Intent to play for the Privateers in 2017-18, UNO head coach Mark Slessinger announced on day two of the NCAA Spring Signing Period.
A 6-6, 180-pound wing from Pearl, Miss., Champion joins the UNO family after spending the last two seasons starring at North Platte Community College in Nebraska for the school’s all-time winningest coach, Kevin O’Connor. Prior to the start of his college career, he played as a sophomore at Pearl High for coach Russell Evans before moving to Arlington, Texas, and suiting up his final two prep seasons at Lamar for coach Zach Burks.
“Diontae will bring a wide variety of skills to our program next year,” Slessinger said. “Within our system, we envision him being able to play multiple positions and give us the opportunity to play different line-ups due to his flexibility. He is also a very competitive defender who can really get out in transition and score.
“We are excited that Diontae has played in very good programs. This will help him make the jump to the Division I level much smoother. He brings an ability to score the basketball outside and inside along with a great track record as a successful rebounder.”
During his two years at North Platte, Champion helped lead the Knights to combined 41-21 overall record and a 24-13 mark in Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference action with two trips to the NJCAA Region IX Tournament. Champion – the No. 80 prospect nationally by JuCoRecruiting.com and a two-time first-team All-Region honoree – played in 62 career junior college games with 59 starts, posting 930 points (15.0 ppg), 368 rebounds (5.9 rpg), 137 assists (2.2 apg), 121 steals (1.9 spg) and 25 blocks (0.4 bpg).
He scored in double figures 43 times with 18 games with 20-plus points, including a career-best 29 vs Fort Carson Air Force Base on Nov. 7, 2015. Champion posted six point/rebound double-doubles, tallied seven-plus rebounds 22 times, handed out four or more assists on 13 occasions, posted three-plus steals in 18 contests and logged four multiple-block outings. Along the way, he had career-high marks of 17 rebounds vs Miles in the NJCAA Region IX quarterfinals on March 3, 2016, seven assists vs Central-Columbus on Feb. 17, 2017, seven steals vs both Doane on Oct. 30, 2015 and Hastings on Nov. 14, 2015, and three blocks vs Central-Columbus on Jan. 27, 2017.
As a sophomore, Champion claimed NCCAC Most Valuable Player honors after leading the team with 443 points, 14.8 points per game, 154 field goals made, 39 steals, 106 free throws made, 793 minutes played and 26.4 minutes per game while ranking second with 154 rebounds, 5.1 rebounds per game and 73 assists, third with 29 3-point baskets, a 34.5 3-point percentage and nine blocked shots, and fifth with a 49.0 field goal percentage.
Champion also led the squad as a freshman with 487 points, 15.2 points per game, 169 field goals made, 82 steals (82) and 131 free throws made while ranking second with 214 rebounds, 6.7 rebounds per game, 64 assists, 16 blocked shots and a 49.4 field goal percentage en route to claiming second-team all-state recognition. He also finished third on the squad with 791 minutes played and 24.7 minutes per game, and fourth with 18 3-pointers and a 34.0 3-point percentage in 2015-16. That season, he claimed a spot on the 2016 NJCAA All-Region IX All-Tournament Team after averaging 26.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.0 steals, 1.5 assists and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting .500 from the field (18-of-36), .429 from beyond the 3-point arc (3-of-7) and .667 from the free throw stripe (14-of-21).
A three-year prep letterman, Champion helped lead his high school teams to a combined 47-39 overall record, a 22-12 mark in district action and three-consecutive trips to the state playoffs, including a District 6-5A title as a sophomore at Pearl and an 18-13 mark as a senior at Lamar. He scored 885 career points (11.1 ppg) with 155 coming as a sophomore (6.2 ppg), 220 as a junior (9.2 ppg) and 510 as a senior (16.5)
Champion was named District 4-6A Co-Offensive Player of the Year as a senior after adding 11.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game to go with his scoring average, and garnered second-team All-District 3-5A recognition as a junior. In addition to his time on the hardwood, Champion also lettered in football – where he claimed first-team all-district honors at safety as a senior – baseball and track.
UNO team coming off a 2016-17 season that saw the Privateers finish 20-12 overall, win the Southland Conference regular-season title with a 13-5 league record, claimed the 2017 SLC Tournament title with a 68-65 overtime victory against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and advanced to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
Champion is the seventh student-athlete to join the Privateers for the 2017-18 season and the second in as many days as former East St. John High standout Troy Green signed with UNO on Wednesday out of Believe Prep Academy. Also joining the team next season are Lamont Berzat (New Orleans, La./Landry-Walker HS), Tyren Harrison (St. Albans, N.Y./Western Oklahoma State College), Bol Reik (Bentiu, South Sudan/Mooseheart [Ill.] School) and Damion Rosser (McDonough, Ga./Henry County HS) – who inked NLIs during the NCAA Early Signing Period in November – and Scott Plaisance (New Orleans, La./UL-Lafayette), who transferred in following the fall semester.