CHICAGO — There’s an increasing possibility Hamidou Diallo will leave Kentucky without ever having played a game in college, but don’t assume that means he contributed nothing to the Wildcats.
In the 6-foot-5 guard who has a 6-11 wing span and 44½-inch vertical, UK had a potential first-round draft pick as a practice player for the second half of last season. Don’t think the Cats got anything out of that redshirt semester?
“When he was defending us — like when people ask me what was harder, the practices or games, practices for me were a lot tougher than games,” star point guard De’Aaron Fox said Friday at the NBA combine. “He’s a great defender.”
Most will have to take Fox’s word for it, as Diallo has intentionally made himself into a mystery man. He didn’t play at Kentucky and didn’t participate in the 5-on-5 drills here at the combine. So we just have his high school highlight reel of spectacular dunks, his eye-popping measurements and an alarmingly low 3-point percentage from the last time he played competitively, on the AAU circuit. Diallo’s UK teammates probably have the best handle on his game today.
“He’s extremely tough and gritty,” Fox said. “But he’s from the Bronx. All the New York guards are like that. His ball skills are better than what I thought they were. He can shoot the ball [but] he’s going to have to shoot it better from the NBA [3-point line]. That’s true of just about every player in the draft, though, except Malik [Monk]; Malik shoots it from half court well.”
Monk, another Kentucky teammate and likely top-10 pick, skipped the combine. But Diallo, Fox and fellow Wildcats guard Isaiah Briscoe are all here together this week. Briscoe was not surprised to see Diallo post the event’s highest vertical leap and top-5 times in several speed and agility drills.
“That’s what Hami do,” Briscoe said. “I’m happy for him. He’s enjoying the process. We’ve been kicking it, I’ve been helping him, telling him just take his time, don’t rush anything.”
Diallo has not hired an agent and has until May 24 to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to Lexington.
“I think Hami’s going to be fine, regardless of what he does. If he goes back to school, he’ll be fine. If he thinks he’s ready to take the next jump, only he knows that,” Briscoe said. “He’s a competitor, just like me. We’re from the same area. You’ve got to have that heart and that competitive spirit. He’s got that fight in him, and that’ll carry him on to the next level if he decides to go.”