The good news just keeps coming for the Kentucky Wildcats and their 2017 class.
After signing a four-man class that ranks No. 1 in the 2017 team rankings, UK is poised to add 1-3 more elite prospects in the coming months. Among their likeliest targets is five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo, who’s been viewed as a UK lean for much of the past year.
But the potential for Diallo to skip college and head to the NBA next year has cast doubt onto whether he would continue to be a legitimate target for 2017. Now, Diallo is telling ESPN’s Jeff Borzello that college is where the talented wing will be next year.
“Right now, I’m 100 percent going to college,” Diallo told ESPN on Saturday. “Things can change, but right now, I’m 100 percent looking into going to college. The best thing for me, me and my family think, is to take the college route.”
Though he left some wiggle room to decide to turn pro, it certainly sounds like Diallo is leaning towards going to college.
Diallo, who’s been viewed as a UK lean for much of the past year, is one of the big-name recruits that new UK signee Quade Green is recruiting. It also helps that UConn, who’s been viewed as the bigger challenger for Diallo, has been horrific to start this season with losses to Wagner and Northeastern. Syracuse has also gotten some buzz, but part of that was from Diallo wanting to play with Green.
Not a "package deal" by any stretch but continuing to hear lot of buzz that Hamidou Diallo would love to play with Quade Green at next level— Adam Finkelstein (@AdamFinkelstein) November 2, 2016
Diallo didn’t go quite that far, but did tell Borzello that playing with Green is something that interests him.
“We definitely expressed interest in playing together,” Diallo said. “If playing with each other is best for us, then that’s what we’re going to do. But we have two totally different recruitments.”
The Putnam Science Academy (CT) star is ranked by 247 Composite as the 10th-best prospect in 2017. UK was heavily invested in him over the summer, and some though he could be the Cats’ first commitment in the 2017 class.
However, the potential for Diallo to end up going pro caused UK to slow down a bit in their recruitment of Diallo in fear he may go pro and leave them hanging. Other schools are willing to pursue him no matter what, knowing that there aren’t any other elite players they could get instead, which is what UK can do.
John Calipari is going to get burned by signing a kid like Diallo, only for him to go pro next year and leave UK hanging when they could have gotten other big-time recruits.
It also sounds like the NBA isn’t too high on Diallo in the 2017 draft, but all it takes is one team to commit.
Multiple NBA scouts told ESPN it would benefit him to spend a year in college.
“He’s not going to be ready to help an NBA team next year,” one scout said. “So from that standpoint, he should probably go spend a year developing somewhere.”
“He should go to college but someone could draft him,” another scout added. “If your goal is getting drafted, I can understand that frame of mind.”
A third NBA scout, while intrigued by Diallo’s upside, said it would be difficult to spend a first-round pick on Diallo given the talent and depth of this year’s draft class.
There are other factors at play, of course. Diallo’s stock could drop — much like Skal Labissiere — with a year in college, while a few more months against high school competition won’t hurt him too much — much like Thon Maker. He could also have a high-six-figure shoe contract waiting for him if he declares for the draft, based on conversations ESPN has had with sneaker company executives.
This past Friday, Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee was in attendance to watch Diallo at the 2016 NERR Prep Showcase. It was the fourth time Barbee has watched Diallo since the start of the fall recruiting period Sept. 9. Calipari has also visited Diallo several times this year.
My guess is Diallo ends up coming to college, and if he does, I expect UK to be the pick.