Off the Court: Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo

New Orleans rookie Cheick Diallo has one of the most unique stories of any NBA player, as a native of the African nation of Mali who moved to the United States to pursue his dream of playing basketball in America. Diallo played high school basketball on Long Island, and was named MVP of the ballyhooed annual McDonald’s game for the top scholastic players in the country. He went on to play one college season at Kansas in 2015-16, then declared for the draft and was selected No. 33 overall, officially by the Los Angeles Clippers. He was traded to the Pelicans on draft night. The recently-turned 20-year-old sat down with Pelicans.com to discuss his background and some of his interests away from basketball:

Best moment as an athlete: “I think draft night was my dream come true, especially for my country. People are excited for me and supporting me no matter what. I’m only the second player from Mali to be in the NBA.”

How he chose his current uniform number of 13: “It’s because my birthday is Sept. 13.”

One thing fans might be surprised to know about him: “On the court, I’m all about taking care of business. I do everything exactly how the coach tells me to do it. I’m not going to be laughing or giggling. Off the court, I’m cool and chill. On the court, I’m 100 percent focused.”

Favorite thing about New Orleans: “Everyone is cool here. The people are cool, everywhere I go.”

Pregame ritual: “I listen to Eric Thomas. He is a motivational speaker who gets me hyped up every time.”

First job: “NBA player for the New Orleans Pelicans.”

Favorite athlete as a kid: “Back home, everyone knows Michael Jordan. It was hard to be able to watch his games on TV, but he was a great player and everyone talked about him.”

Closest friend currently playing on another NBA team: “Skal Labissiere, a rookie for Sacramento, is my close friend. He played for Kentucky in college.”

Favorite type of music: “I listen to songs from my country. Sometimes I listen to rock but not a lot.”

Favorite TV show: “I don’t watch TV very much, but if I had to pick a show it would be Prison Break.”

Favorite movies of all time: “I’m not much of a movie fan, though I watch them sometimes.”

Favorite websites: “Probably YouTube.”