LEXINGTON, KY. — Hamidou Diallo will take his big decision down to the buzzer. The Kentucky freshman has until midnight Wednesday to pull out of the 2017 NBA draft and return to school, and a source close to the program believes Diallo is truly torn, “50/50,” about the decision.
As of Monday, he had still not informed the Wildcats’ coaching staff of his plans. So when will the announcement come? “It’s looking like Wednesday,” a source told New York-based basketball writer Adam Zagoria. (Diallo is from Queens, N.Y.)
Diallo, a 6-foot-6 guard with a 6-11 wing span who posted an NBA Combine-best 44 ½-inch vertical leap nine days ago, worked out for the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets before retreating into his inner circle to make his decision.
“Just seeing where I stand,” Diallo said at the combine, “and hopefully when that day comes, I’ll make the right decision for me and my family. It’s definitely a big decision. I’m just trying stay level-headed and be a great listener.”
Draft Express still doesn’t have Diallo projected in the first round — he’s slotted 35th overall — and NBA scouts have told SEC Country they remain skeptical of his readiness to play at the highest level. He enrolled at UK in January but did not play the second half of last season, then skipped 5-on-5 scrimmaging at the combine.
Cats coach John Calipari actually advised him to keep his game a mystery and see if the pros will bite based solely on his size and athletic testing numbers. Diallo listened then, but will he now if Calipari tells him to come back to Kentucky?
“Cal is a person that I really trust in my life,” Diallo said at the combine. “He’s been through this process more than probably anybody that I know. So him telling me what he thinks is definitely going to be good for my ears.”
Of the teams Diallo has worked out for, Boston has the No. 1, 37, 53 and 56 picks; Chicago has No. 16 and 38; Milwaukee has No. 17 and 48; Brooklyn has No. 22, 27 and 57. Of those options, the asset-strapped Nets seem most likely to take a late first-round flier on hometown kid who might be a lottery pick in the 2018 draft.
Soon, we’ll find out whether Diallo has the patience to wait for that potential payday. Even if he doesn’t, Kentucky will have 10 former top-100 recruits and seven consensus 5-star guys on the roster next season.
The Wildcats hoped Diallo could provide some leadership on what will be Calipari’s youngest team yet, but someone such as talented sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones could step into that void if he leaves. One thing is certain: the hypotheticals finally end Wednesday.
KENTUCKY’S 2017-18 ROSTER
* If Diallo stays in the NBA Draft
PG Quade Green, 6-1, 5-star freshman
SG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6-6, 4-star freshman
SF Kevin Knox, 6-9, 5-star freshman
PF P.J. Washington, 6-8, 5-star freshman
C Sacha Killeya-Jones, 6-10, 5-star sophomore
SG Jemarl Baker, 6-4, 4-star freshman
SF Jarred Vanderbilt, 6-9, 5-star freshman
PF Wenyen Gabriel, 6-9, 5-star sophomore
PF Tai Wynyard, 6-10, 4-star sophomore
C Nick Richards, 7-0, 5-star freshman