By Mike Cugno

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HIALEAH (CBSMiami) — Adrian Diaz, also known as the “Hialeah Hammer,” is putting a charge into the FIU basketball program but it’s his off-the-court battle with diabetes that may be more impressive than his on-the-court play.

CBS4’s Mike Cugno sat down with Diaz for an interview about life and basketball.

“They call you the Hialeah Hammer. How’d you get that nickname,” asked Cugno.

“I actually got it from my brother. I was the baby hammer, I guess,” said Diaz.

But there’s nothing baby about Adrian Diaz. FIU’s 6’10” forward is leading the Golden Panthers in both scoring and rebounding, netting 15 points and 9 boards a game.

But while basketball appears to come easily to Diaz, everyday life does not. When he was 16, he was rushed to the hospital after losing 25 lbs in two weeks.

Doctors discovered he had Type-1 diabetes. Now he carries around an insulin pump everywhere but the court.

“That’s basically what I use to live. Without that, three days without it and I’d be in a diabetic coma.”

Because of his diagnosis, his diet was overhauled. He had to cut both carbs and his calorie intake, limiting him to protein and greens.

The food he misses most?

“Probably fried chicken. I still have that once in a while but before it used to be an everyday thing for me. I usually go to Flannigan’s and there’s an ice cream with brownies and Kit-Kats on it. I look at it like wow, why you gotta do this to me?”

With the help of a nutritionist, Diaz’s basketball career is staying on track.

FIU wasn’t his first stop, however. He transferred from Kansas State, where a lack of playing time and dealing with diabetes began to test his love of basketball.

“He didn’t want to play when he first got here,” said FIU Head Coach Anthony Evans. “Obviously, he didn’t play a lot at Kansas State. When you don’t play, it kind of kills that love. That’s what we talked about. Him being the center piece. Him re-energizing the program, bringing those fans, being the person we build the program around. And I think that’s what really helped him get back his love for the game.”

That plan is working.

The Golden Panthers are rolling, having won 5 of their last 6 games and the Hialeah Hammer has now been named Conference USA’s Player of the Week three times this season.

“I always kept moving with basketball. And a lot of people told me I shouldn’t quit because of it. Because a lot of athletes had it to. You know, Adam Morrison, Jay Cutler… they kind of inspired me to keep playing.”