The Kentucky Wildcats have very few upperclassmen on this year’s team, but one player with college experience is Hamidou Diallo, albeit a redshirt semester last year. The hope is that extra semester on campus, as well as a summer trip with John Calipari’s USA U19 team, has him ready to lead the youngest group of Cats to date under Calipari.
#3 Hamidou Diallo
Position: Shooting Guard
Year: Freshman (Redshirt)
High School: Putnam Science Academy (NYC)
Hamidou Diallo was the top rated shooting guard in the class of 2017. He decided that he wanted to reclassify in the middle of the college basketball season and joined the Wildcats early in 2017.
He was eligible to play right away but, along with the coaching staff, he decided it would be best to practice and learn instead of playing in actual games.
The reasoning was two-fold:
- The chemistry of the team had already been established at that point and it may have been a detriment to take playing time from an established player over a freshman that hadn’t been there very long
- Hami was a surprise and a relative mystery to NBA scouts, therefore playing without much practice or experience could have hurt his NBA draft stock
When the season ended, Hami tested the NBA draft and worked out at the combine. His measurables were off the charts and was one of the most impressive players that scouts saw. But he didn’t get a guarantee that he would be drafted in the first round, so at the final hour he came back to Kentucky.
“The one thing I’ve learned through this whole process is how grateful I am that I came to the University of Kentucky,” Diallo wrote in a message posted on Twitter. “Coach Cal and the staff have had my back throughout this entire journey. They were honest with me from the start, had my best interests at heart and walked me through every step. I couldn’t have asked for a better support system.”
Over the summer Hami traveled to Egypt with Coach Cal and Team USA to play in the U19 Tournament. He averaged 10.9 points and 3.9 rebounds in 18.4 minutes a game for the United States during seven games.
Diallo had some great moments and overall played very well, but it was obvious that he does indeed need work and the more practice he got the better off he would be in the long run.
Diallo averaged 14.7 points in UK’s three exhibition wins this preseason. During his final high school season, Diallo led Putnam Science Academy to a 38-3 overall record and an appearance in the state semifinals. He is a two-time all-state honoree and averaged 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists during his senior year.
The size and length of Diallo makes him an ideal candidate for a perimeter stopper for the Wildcats. His athleticism will be, on most nights, unrivaled. He will be involved in eye-popping dunks, drives to the basket, and defensive plays.
But the question mark for him will be his ability to score from the outside. His shooting prowess isn’t his strength but this is a skill that he will need to hone in order to keep defenders honest on defense.
If Hami can develop a decent perimeter game, like De’Aaron Fox developed as the season progressed, then he will be as dangerous a player in college basketball as there is in the country.
Until then, Hami will be expected to be a defensive force and a freak athlete that, when given a head of steam, will deliver some highlights that will rival Malik Monk and John Wall.
If Diallo wants to be a lottery pick in the 2018 draft, then he does have some work to do.