Hamidou Diallo is back, and he’s ready to chase banner No. 9.
The freshman guard went through the NBA Draft process, and it appeared Diallo was leaning towards staying in the draft as the withdrawal deadline drew closer. But before the final buzzer sound, Diallo announced he was staying in Lexington.
“First of all, I want to thank the Big Blue Nation for your support,” Diallo said. “I've only been a Wildcat for five months, but you have already made me one of your own. I know not everyone understood my original decision -- but everyone has been supportive. Thank you for that.
“The one thing I've learned through this whole process is how grateful I am that I came to the University of Kentucky. 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.”
Diallo went on to thank everyone who’s supported him through the draft process, and he made some surprising revelations about suiting up last season, as well as paying back his tuition if he left for the NBA after one semester.
“I also want to thank the university for understanding how important this decision was to me” said Diallo. This is something I had to do for me and my family, and the school has been supportive of us the whole way.
“Just so everyone knows, I always planned to pay the school back for my spring tuition for allowing me to enroll last semester because I never thought I would be in this position. If I knew I was leaving after the semester, I would have played to help the team.
“Like I said when I submitted my name for the draft, playing in the NBA has always been my ultimate goal. When I enrolled in school in January, my plan was to come to Kentucky to work on my game and to focus on academics. At the end of the season, I knew I wanted to see where I was in the draft process so I could get a proper evaluation.
“That plan still hasn't changed. I hope to play in the NBA one day -- just not this season. Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it's in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title. I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can't wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”
UK head coach John Calipari has been huge supporter of Diallo throughout the process, and he would have been happy to see the young guard go pro if he was going to be a high NBA Draft pick.
But once both of them saw that may not happen, they decided it was in Diallo’s best interests to remain in school.
“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a press release. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship. I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know. He’s a special player and a special person.”
Diallo will be one of the biggest leaders on a UK team that will have a host of freshmen playing key roles next season, and we could see an all-freshman starting lineup (if you count Diallo as a redshirt freshman).
Regardless of how the starting lineup shapes out, this will be a special UK team that Diallo figures to play a major part in.