Hamidou Diallo officially made it three Kentucky freshmen entering the 2018 NBA Draft on Monday afternoon when he announced his plans to hire an agent like teammates Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
He shared the news — which was hardly unexpected — with a video thanking the Wildcats’ coaching staff and fan base.
THANK YOU BIG BLUE NATION! pic.twitter.com/KyL4jokUsa
— Hamidou Diallo (@hamidoudiallo) April 16, 2018
“I grew up this year,” Diallo said in the message. “I became a man on and off the court. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of my game, but I’m now prepared to do it because of the work I’ve put in at Kentucky at the support of everyone at this university.”
So far, Diallo, Knox, Gilgeous-Alexander and fellow freshman PJ Washington have all declared for the 2018 NBA Draft — with Washington as the only one leaving the door open for a return to Kentucky by not yet hiring an agent. Sophomores Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard have also announced plans to transfer while 7-foot-tall McDonald’s All-American Nick Richards will return for his sophomore season.
Big Blue Nation is still awaiting word on whether freshman Jarred Vanderbilt and sophomore Wenyen Gabriel will enter the draft — and whether freshman point guard Quade Green might transfer as coach John Calipari loads up on 5-star recruits in the backcourt.
As for Diallo, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard with a 7-foot wingspan and 44 1/2-inch vertical leap, he’ll turn pro after one redshirt semester and a roller coaster season at Kentucky. He started all 37 games for the Wildcats and scored 18-plus points in 7 of 11 games to open the season — then averaged just 7 points in SEC play.
But Diallo reminded NBA scouts what he can do with all that freakish athleticism when he hit 9 of 12 shots and had 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. ESPN ranks him the 34th-best player among draft-eligible prospects, meaning with strong pre-draft workouts he might be able to sneak into the bottom of the first round.
“Hami got better in all areas of his game. True growth happens when you get knocked down to the point of questioning yourself,” Calipari said in a UK-issued statement. “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. 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.”
Even with their entire starting backcourt gone, the Wildcats will quickly replenish their guard talent with the incoming class, which includes 5-stars Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson, 4-star Tyler Herro and likely the No. 1 point guard in the Class of 2019, Ashton Hagans, who is expected to reclassify and enroll this summer.