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John Calipari comments on Hamidou Diallo NBA Draft decision

“I wish I had the opportunity to coach him another year, but I understand and support his decision.”

Buffalo v Kentucky Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

When it comes to John Calipari, he always supports his players in their pursuit of an NBA career.

Almost every player that’s come to Lexington during Cal’s tenure has had aspirations of making it to the NBA, and most of them have at least gotten a chance to make those dreams a reality.

The latest will be Hamidou Diallo, who just announced he’s leaving for the NBA Draft. Despite a subpar season that saw him score under 10 points 16 times in his last 20 games, Diallo is still projected to be a second-round pick in this year’s draft.

Not long after Diallo announced his intentions, Calipari released a statement about the decision.

“I remember going through this process with Hami last year,” Calipari said. “In both cases, our conversations were about what was best for Hami. Last year, he wanted to come back to put on that Kentucky jersey in a game for the first time, compete for a championship and improve his game. He did all three this season.

“Hami got better in all areas of his game. True growth happens when you get knocked down to the point of questioning yourself. We already knew how talented of a player Hami was physically and athletically, but we all learned about Hami’s toughness, his character and his desire to win.

“I am so proud of his growth from beginning to end. He’s prepared to succeed and will succeed. He’s the best athlete in the draft who’s continued to improve his shooting.”

That’s the kind of support you see from Calipari with all of his players, but that doesn’t mean he necessarily agree with their decision.

During a call-in show this past season, Calipari actually admitted he’s had several players whose NBA decisions he didn’t agree with.

“We’ve had guys in that made decisions where I was like ‘I’m not sure you should do this,’ and it probably didn’t work out as well as they thought it would,” Calipari said on his show. “That’s only been a handful of guys, five, maybe six.

“Some other guys, I’m not sure. They worked their way in, but it took them a couple years. It is a decision I worry about, and I try to get them the proper information. I try not to tell them ‘you have to stay’ or ‘you have to leave.’ They have to make that decision.”

Well, it may be safe to think Calipari isn’t 100-percent behind Diallo’s decision to turn pro if you read between the lines of his final thoughts on the decision.

“He’s only touched his true talent. I wish I had the opportunity to coach him another year, but I understand and support his decision.”

Looking back, it was almost certainly guys like Marquis Teague, Skal Labissiere, Daniel Orton, Dakari Johnson and Isaiah Briscoe who Calipari thought made the wrong call. Teague and Orton went in the late first round, but they quickly fell out of the NBA.

Skal is still a work in progress. Briscoe is playing overseas, and Johnson just got called up to the NBA this past season after a stint in the G-League.

Diallo’s career could easily end up being like one of those aforementioned names, and you have to wonder how much one more year would have helped him.

In the end, you can only hope that Diallo made the best decision for himself and his family. He may not be ready for the NBA, but his potential may be enough for a team to spend 2-3 years on developing his game and making him into an NBA player.