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Lutheran star Baye Fall prepares to shoot, top right, then goes up for a dunk in this file photo from January 2021. Fall and Assane Diop, not pictured, are the top-rated high school basketball recruits in Colorado.

The top-rated high school basketball recruits in Colorado — Baye Fall and Assane Diop — are nearing commitment dates.

The CU Buffaloes are still in contention.

Fall and Diop, in an exclusive sit-down interview with The Gazette, said they expect to make their college destinations known by no later than December. Both players have narrowed their school finalists with the possibility of becoming future teammates at Arkansas, Auburn, Colorado, Kansas State or Seton Hall.

But the Senegal natives are not guaranteed as a package deal.

Fall (6-10, 210) — a five-star recruit and Top-15 national prospect — is also considering Rutgers and Texas.

Diop (6-10, 190) — a four-star recruit and Top-100 national prospect — also lists Arizona State, BYU and Ohio State among his final schools.

"This decision is going to be based on what's best for each of us," Fall said. "If it's going together, that's what we're going to do. It's possible. We could play together at all levels. If it's going separate, we can do that, too. But it's always fun playing together."

Greg Willis, longtime director of the Colorado Hawks (AAU) club basketball program, took in the boys from Senegal as their host family in 2019 to pursue education and college scholarships. Fall and Diop's ascension to become highly sought-after basketball recruits began as sophomores with 2020 CHSAA state high school championships — Fall at Lutheran (3A) and Diop at Belleview Christian (1A).

Last year, they joined Denver Prep Academy as teammates to compete on a non-CHSAA national travel basketball circuit called The Grind Session. Fall and Diop left DPA in February and will play their final high school season at Accelerated Prep, a new private basketball program that partners with Denver-based Accelerated Schools.

"We've been playing (together) almost three years," Diop said of his on-court chemistry with Fall. "We really don't need to say what we have to do. We already know what we're going to do."

Fall and Diop torched the AAU circuit this summer, highlighted by individual MVP performances at the Pangos All-American Camp in June. Major recruiting services list both players at center. However, Willis said their talents have evolved beyond standard post play.

Fall led all scorers and rebounders at the NBAPA Top-100 Camp in July. He's excellent at running the floor in transition with elite vertical explosion. Growing confidence in his midrange game and outside shot has Fall in position to thrive as a stretch forward at the next level. Diop is projected as a wing or shooting guard, given his abilities as a confident ballhandler and lengthy scorer/distributor.

"They've proven they can play those positions," Willis said. "It's important now that they expand their games. We saw a lot of where Assane was able to handle the ball and facilitate, which he can really do well. Most people think he's a center because he's so tall, but he's anything but a center."

"With Baye, they're so accustomed to seeing him on the block. But Baye was one of the best shooters on our team in AAU. He's putting the ball on the floor really well."

Fall and Diop have the next several months to determine college destinations. You can bet CU coach Tad Boyle will be tuned in on commitment day. The Buffs currently do not have any verbal pledges for their 2023 recruiting class. Landing the top two players in the state would create a serious buzz in Boulder. The Buffs have done their due diligence in the Fall-Diop recruitment.

"It was fun going there on the official and stuff," Fall said. "They're in a conference I really like, the Pac-12, and this is where I call home in the U.S. They have great courses and develop a lot of pros."

Diop added: "I have a good relationship with the coaches and everybody. It's a good school and they're making pros. It's why I put them on my list."