Yacine Diop, a women's basketball player, during a game.
Yacine Diop plays against Western Kentucky.

Yacine Diop is no stranger to heartache, but her story is an inspirational tale of determination and grit.

After a cross-continent move, struggling to adapt to a new language and culture, attending a school that cut its basketball program, and myriad injuries during her playing career at two universities, Diop is primed to start her final year of eligibility on the court as a UofL Cardinal. And she has one goal in mind – to make an NCAA final.

Reporter Danielle Lerner chronicled Diop’s long and winding path to the Yum! Center court in the Courier Journal.

Raised in the heart of the Sengalese capital of Dakar, Diop had big dreams of going out into the world and becoming more. After falling in love with the NBA at the age of 9, she began playing basketball against the other children in her community. She possessed a strong tenacity for the game which got her recruited for club ball, where she continued gaining skills and notoriety. Her talents were noticed and she was encouraged to make the move to the U.S.  

Diop’s mother initially was not thrilled with the idea and insisted Diop would have to find a way to not only get to the U.S., but also to go to college. So Diop boarded a plane alone as a young teen and traveled to Pennsylvania to attend high school.

In a foreign country and unable to speak the language, Diop turned to basketball as her constant. Until her first high school cut their girl’s program. After transferring, she struggled academically and lost eligibility until her senior year. However, a successful on-court performance senior year secured her a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. More trials and tribulations followed her at college, where she struggled with injuries and the team struggled to win.

Diop remained optimistic that she would one day find her way to an NCAA tournament and later, the WNBA. It was with this optimism that she transferred to the University of Louisville for graduate studies. Alas, early in the 2018-19 season, Diop was sidelined with yet another injury – an ACL tear. The injury was disheartening, but following rehabilitation, she is ready to compete in her final year of college eligibility with the goal to reach the NCAA finals.

Get the full story at courier-journal.com.