John Calipari is accustomed to having a horde of reporters around him after every game, but the Kentucky basketball coach is in Egypt this week leading USA Basketball’s under-19 team in the FIBA World Cup and — believe it or not — American media did not flock to Cairo.
But Hall of Fame college basketball writer Dick “Hoops” Weiss made the trip. The longtime columnist for the Philadelphia and New York Daily News (and author of books with Calipari, Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski and Dick Vitale) has been impressed with Calipari’s work on the sidelines.
More importantly, SEC Country reached out to Hoops for some thoughts on Kentucky freshmen Hamidou Diallo and P.J. Washington, both Team USA starters, through two exhibitions and two games in Egypt. Diallo is averaging 16 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and no turnovers, shooting 65 percent from the field. Washington is averaging 12 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.5 steals, shooting 53 percent.
You can read Weiss’ dispatches from the World Cup at bluestarmedia.org and scroll on for his thoughts about the Wildcats so far:
ON HAMIDOU DIALLO
“I’d seen Diallo play last year and he’s a freak athlete, but he’s become a much better player, a much better shooter. He’s going to be so much fun to watch for Kentucky fans. I think he and P.J. will become immediate starters. I think Hamidou has a chance to be a lottery pick; I think he’s that good.
“Diallo may well be the most talented player on this team. I think the semester he had with Cal last year really helped polish his game — but he hasn’t lost any of that reckless, insane athleticism. It’s pretty amazing to me that he went to the NBA Combine, put up those numbers, worked out for teams, had a chance to go in the first round and then decided to still come back.”
ON P.J. WASHINGTON
“I wish P.J. was a little better shooter, but when he gets the ball inside, he’s really difficult to stop. He’s constant motion, plays both ends of the floor. He can play away from the basket and really attack, handle it, drive it, finish strong. Washington just goes out and plays. He and (5-star UK target Cameron Reddish) don’t show any negative emotion on the court; they just play hard all the time.”
ON CAMERON REDDISH
“You’ll love Reddish — if he comes to Kentucky. He’s really special. I mean, he can play all five positions. When he was first evaluated by USA Basketball, he was 6-foot-3 in the ninth grade. Then he had a four-inch growth spurt and it changed how he plays. His dad was a center at VCU, but he taught him to play point guard, so then he blossomed and could play every position. He’s special.”
ON JOHN CALIPARI
“I think he wants to get in the Olympic pipeline … but I think he’s really enjoying himself. Like everybody, I think he worried about coming over here — is it safe? — but that has not been an issue. They’ve done a fabulous job of security in the hotel and at the games. That has not been an issue at all. I think John is happy with the way it’s coming along, the way his guys are playing and the time he’s getting to spend with them over here. This is big for Kentucky.”
* BONUS QUOTE: After watching Auburn big man Austin Wiley for almost a week, and seeing him go for 16 points and 16 boards in a rout of Angola on Sunday, Weiss declared, “He’s really good. I think he’s going to be a first-round pick.” As we’ve been telling you since Team USA training camp in Colorado, Wiley, the former 5-star recruit, will be a serious problem for the rest of the SEC.