EDISON - Local high school basketball teams will tip off in the sectional finals over the next two days, but one key player has been running with a heavy heart all season.

Moustapha Diagne, a 17-year-old sophomore at Pope John XXIII Regional High School, says he grieves at each practice and during every game.

Diagne is a student from Senegal who took the opportunity to come to the United States to play hoops. His father fell ill six months ago and the basketball player couldn't make the trip home for his father's unexpected death.

Making the transition to living in the United States had already been difficult for Diagne, who struggled learning English.

But now the 6 foot 8, 240-pound star high school player has found his stride and is committed to playing college ball at Syracuse.

Off the court, however, he says he still gets homesick. He's seen his mother only once in the past three years.

"It's life, man," Diagne says about his father. "I got to keep it going and make him proud."