Recommended Video:

Chronic knee issues that robbed Mamadou Diarra of the bulk of his college playing career at UConn have caused him to discontinue that career.

Diarra, a redshirt junior forward, will no longer play for the Huskies due to “multifaceted, complicating patella femoral pathologies,” according to a release sent out by UConn on Wednesday. However, Diarra will remain with the team this season as a student assistant coach.

“Unfortunately, Mamadou has endured some difficult circumstances physically since he arrived at UConn,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said in the release. “We cannot, in good conscience, ask him to continue attempts to rehab to the point where he could compete at this level, knowing it could severely impact him later in life.

“Everyone in the program has the utmost respect for Mo as a person and as a player and in the way he has handled a tough situation. We are extremely pleased that he will remain with the program as he pursues his degree, mentoring our student-athletes on a daily basis.”

Diarra has been granted a medical disqualification, granted when a student-athlete is injured to the point where it is not in his best interest to continue to play. This allows Diarra to keep his athletic scholarship, though it will not be counted against UConn’s scholarship allotment.

“After reviewing the situation with my doctors and family, I thought it was the best opportunity for me,” Diarra told Hearst Connecticut Media by phone. “I’m pretty content with my decision.”

Diarra, a 6-foot-7 power forward, added that he felt he could still play at this point, but doctors told him long-term, it’s not in his best health interests.

“A couple of years down the line, I don’t know how much my knees could hold up,” he said. “It’s almost to the point of bone-on-bone right now. I decided to make the decision now, where I had the opportunity to start a new career path and stay with a program I love.”

Diarra’s decision opens up one final scholarship for UConn to fill for the upcoming season. The Huskies will likely be looking for another big man, but will also take the best available player at any position as it tries to continue to stockpile talent after three straight losing seasons.

Diarra was a consensus Top 100 recruit at Putnam Science Academy and committed to UConn in May, 2015. Prior to his freshman season, he was diagnosed with chondromalacia patella and patellofemoral syndrome, which causes significant knee discomfort, and sat out the season as a medical redshirt.

As a sophomore in 2017-18, Diarra averaged 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in 10.1 minutes per game. However, last summer, he tore the meniscus in his left knee, requiring surgery. He appeared in just two games this past season.

“It’s disappointing,” Putnam Science Academy coach Tom Espinosa said. “I feel bad for Mamadou. He’s a great kid, he had a bright future leaving Putnam Science. He’s one of the best, if not the best, power forward every to play here. It’s disappointing that since he’s been at UConn, he hasn’t been healthy. I’m disappointed for the kid, I really feel bad for him. Recently, it’s been tough for him to understand that his playing career is pretty much over. It’s tough for a 21-year-old kid to hear that. But, he is fortunate, because UConn is going to continue to take care of him. I give UConn a lot of credit.”

Added Diarra: “Obviously, I love playing basketball. To hear at my age it’s over, it’s hard to cope with that. But I made the decision with my family and people around me. It took some time.”

Diarra said his role as student assistant coach is still being defined, but he’ll be able to mentor players (most of them former teammates) and possibly attend staff meetings, as well. This past season, he was a great boon to former PSA star Akok Akok, who joined the Huskies as a redshirt for the second half of the season. Diarra added that he’s always had it in the back of his mind that he might coach some day.

“I’ve been around a lot of great coaches and players, and I get to stay with the program I’ve been with and start a new career, hopefully,” he said. “I always thought about (coaching), but didn’t think of how soon I’d be looking into that career path. Everybody has their own story.”