As expected, Hamidou Diallo has picked Kentucky.
Diallo made the call Saturday at a ceremony in front of friends and family, most of which were not surprised to see him pick the Cats.
That was the expectation, though it wasn’t easy for UK to hold off UConn, who made a strong run at him in December, and they’re actually who convinced Diallo to join a team mid-semester instead of wait it out and sign in the spring.
But UK was able to squeeze in a late visit with Diallo before John Calipari sealed the deal, and now Diallo is enrolling at UK to join the team for the second semester of class. That allows him to practice with the team, though he’s not expected to play in games this season.
Diallo, who hails from Putnam Science Academy (CT), is ranked by 247 Composite as the 10th-best prospect in 2017. The 6-5, 195-pound guard is ranked by 247 as their No. 9 overall prospect and top shooting guard. ESPN ranks him 11th, while Rivals has him ranked 10th.
UK was heavily invested in Diallo over the summer, and some thought he could be the Cats’ first commitment in the 2017 class. He has been viewed as a UK lean for much of the past year, and he’s also one of the big-name recruits that recent UK signee Quade Green has been 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, Auburn and Northeastern. Syracuse has also gotten some buzz, but part of that was from Diallo wanting to play with Green.
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. He’s stated that skipping college and going straight to the NBA is something he’s considering, but he’s since made it pretty clear he will be in college, even if it is just for a semester.
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.
But as the recruiting cycle wore on, it became clear Diallo was UK’s best chance to land one more elite guard in 2017 to pair with Green. That’s why UK is willing to take Diallo and risk having him leave for the 2017 draft after just one semester on campus.
UK and Diallo did have mutual interest in him reclassifying into the 2016 class and joining UK for this season (UConn was also an option for this), so perhaps him coming in for the second semester has been in the works for longer than we realize.
In the end, Diallo is a Cat, and while it’s nice to think he ‘might’ contribute to this year’s team, this is a far bigger addition for the 2017-18 team. For now, Diallo is planning to stick around for next year, and he’s joining a team now to get a head start on having a big 2017-18 season.
And with UK losing De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, Dominique Hawkins, and Mychal Mulder to graduation or the draft, there’s a ton of guard minutes to be had next season.
You can bet Diallo will be accounting for many of them as long as he skips the 2017 draft.
Here is ESPN’s scouting report of Diallo:
Strengths: Diallo is a long and very athletic attacking wing that care score in a variety of ways. He finishes above the rim on the break. Gets to the rim, hits rhythm dribble pull up jumpers and threes when his feet are set. He rebounds well for a perimeter player and can defend both wing positions. He competes and makes plays throughout the game as he attacks defenders relentlessly. He has and great motor and never stops playing.
Weaknesses: Diallo must continue to add strength and work on his ball handling especially when being pressured.
Bottom Line: Diallo is a high major wing that can score in a variety of ways. He competes and has tremendous upside.
Here is what DraftExpress had to say about Diallo following his performance at the USA Basketball U-18 training camp.
-Not exceptionally tall, but has a gigantic plus-seven wingspan that allows him to play significantly bigger than his height. Frame has continued to fill out since the last time we saw him
-One of the best athletes in high school basketball. Has great quickness and is incredibly explosive around the rim.
-Extremely effective in transition. Very difficult to contain in the open floor.
-Can straight line attack with a very quick first step
-Doesn't shy away from contact. Takes ball strong to the basket, drawing plenty of fouls in the process
-Shooting mechanics don't look terrible. Gets good rotation. Comes out of hand decently. Jumper doesn't appear to be broken
-High energy wing player who flies around defensively and crashes the glass on both ends of the floor with great purpose. Shows really nice anticipation skills getting in the passing lanes. Could be a terror locking down point and shooting guards with his length and quickness.
-Struggles to make shots consistently. Release is a little slow due to windup and ball-dip. Mechanics don't look bad, but airballed quite a few jumpers in Colorado Springs. 8/48 (17%) from beyond the arc in the EYBL this season. Only shooting 64% from the free throw line.
-Advanced ball-handling skills are still a work in progress in the half-court. Doesn't change directions or speeds very well. Struggles to react to help defenses at times.
-Not a great passer. Doesn't have an exceptional feel for the game. Can get very wild at times. Committed more turnovers (41) than assists (33) in the EYBL this season thus far (16 games).
With this commitment, UK now has a six-man class in 2017, though Diallo is now technically a 2016 recruit since he’s joining the 2016-17 team. Also committed in 2017 are Quade Green, Jarred Vanderbilt, Shai Alexander, P.J. Washington, and Nick Richards. That alone is good enough to contend for the No. 1 spot in 2017, though UK is still going after Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox.
Here are more highlights of the newest Cat in action: