For many members of the Big Blue Nation, Wednesday was a tough day, as the deadline for players testing the NBA Draft waters to announce their return to college was Thursday at midnight.
Although he had never actually played a single minute in a Kentucky jersey, five-star guard Hamidou Diallo was one of those players, and Wildcat fans obsessed over his decision for the entirety of Wednesday afternoon and into the evening. Some reports were conflicting early on, making for quite a dramatic night...
Wednesday at 8:30 p.m:
Was just told Hamidou Diallo going back to school at Kentucky. A full year under Coach Calipari and definite lottery?— ron naclerio (@CoachRNaclerio) May 24, 2017
Wednesday at 9:29 p.m:
It wasn’t until 1:05 a.m. that those who had patiently stayed awake were rewarded with this tweet containing a heartfelt message from Diallo:
Let's Chase Championship #9 BBN!! pic.twitter.com/9Zyd9cPUom— Hamidou diallo (@Diallo1Hamidou) May 25, 2017
And then the celebration was on.
Props to whoever had this tweet ready to go on behalf of Coach Cal.
Hamidou Diallo returning to Kentucky. pic.twitter.com/aeDrKZFfBc— TJ Beisner (@tjbeisner) May 25, 2017
Hamidou Diallo has yet to play a game for Kentucky and he's already hit his first buzzer beater.— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) May 25, 2017
A buzzer beater, indeed.
Diallo never got the First Round guarantee he needed to stay in Draft...believes he can be Lottery with a good year after return— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) May 25, 2017
And for that, NBA Scouts, we thank you.
I hope Diallo is a little quicker with his decisions when he has the ball in his hands.— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) May 25, 2017
Quade and Hami and Kevin and Jarred and PJ and Nick and Wenyen and Sacha and Tai and Shai and Jemarl and Jonny and Brad and Dillon pic.twitter.com/TDfGyq8ubb— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) May 25, 2017
I have a soft spot for Farley GIFs.
Kentucky's 2017-18 roster by height:— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) May 25, 2017
I like my team.
Calipari on Diallo: "I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship."— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) May 25, 2017
I think we all love that fact, Cal.
For Diallo, a full season at Kentucky - and work on his shot - could make him a high lottery pick. Tremendous NBA intrigue surrounds him. https://t.co/NRuDhpmWku— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) May 25, 2017
Seriously, credit Diallo. Could have taken the quick cash now. But if he does what he's supposed to at UK, will be a lottery pick next year— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) May 25, 2017
So there you have it. Kentucky Basketball has reloaded once again with a roster that will produce some big-time NBA Draft picks in the coming years.
On to some articles...
This from Adam Zagoria’s ZagsBlog:
While testing the waters without an agent, he had been projected as the No. 35 pick per DraftExpress.com and never got a first-round guarantee after working out for Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee and the Nets, the source said.
“Brooklyn and Utah were the two teams most serious about selecting him in the first round, but ultimately would not promise before midnight,” one source said.
Diallo also pulled out of a workout with the Knicks on Wednesday.
“He’s going back to Kentucky with the goal of being a Top 10 pick in next year’s draft,” the source said.
The Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts wrote that Diallo’s decision very well could close the door for any new recruits from the 2017 class:
The announcement late Wednesday night that Hamidou Diallo is returning to the University of Kentucky might end up being the final piece to the Wildcats’ recruiting puzzle for the 2017-18 season.
John Calipari has two available scholarships, but the only uncommitted player remaining on UK’s recruiting radar is Pittsburgh graduate transfer Cameron Johnson, and Lexington appears to be a less likely destination for him with the return of Diallo and the recent commitment of five-star wing Kevin Knox.
Johnson — a 6-foot-8 wing — also has been considering Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and North Carolina. The Tar Heels probably would be the favorites if they can persuade Pitt to drop a restriction that would make Johnson sit out next season if he transfers to UNC. Johnson would have two seasons of immediate eligibility if he transfers to a school outside the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Johnson said earlier this spring that he would be watching the NBA and recruiting decisions of other players at the schools on his list, and those decisions could affect his own college choice. UK and Arizona were the early favorites for the Pittsburgh-area native, but UK has since added Knox and has brought back Diallo, while Arizona returns starting shooting guard Rawle Alkins and has added five-star recruit Emmanuel Akot, a 6-7 small forward.
Five-star center Mohamed Bamba was the Cats’ final uncommitted recruiting target from the 2017 class, and he signed with Texas last week.
So UK’s 2017-18 roster might be set.
But SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker seemed a bit more optimistic on the potential of Pittsburgh graduate-transfer Cameron Johnson joining the Cats, easing a bigger concern facing the 2017-18 squad:
The Wildcats will now have 11 former top-100 recruits and eight former 5-star prospects on the roster next season. Diallo, point guard Quade Green, small forwards Kevin Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt, power forwards P.J. Washington, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel and center Nick Richards all were consensus top-25 recruits nationally.
The one major concern: every contributor next season will be a freshman or sophomore unless Kentucky adds one last piece in the form of Pittsburgh graduate transfer Cameron Johnson, a 6-8 wing who shot 40 percent from 3-point range in ACC play last season.
But fret and speculation over that is for another day, and Diallo’s decision ensures that whatever the Cats lack, it won’t be raw ability. They now have an embarrassment of riches in that department.
Needless to say, if there’s any coach who can handle the tall task of putting an incredibly young but talented team in position to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, it’s John Calipari.
Get ready for another fun ride, BBN.