Five-star Class of 2017 guard Hamidou Diallo made things interesting in the recruiting world by committing to Kentucky on Saturday evening during a scheduled announcement. Diallo announced between a final list that included Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and UConn but he only took official visits to see Kentucky and UConn in the last few weeks.
The 6-foot-6 Diallo is a unique case because he graduated high school last year and was doing a year of postgrad ball at Putnam Science Academy before deciding to go to college in the middle of the season. Diallo can enroll immediately at Kentucky for the second semester and the Wildcats can either use him this season or redshirt him and play him next season. There’s also the additional wrinkle of Diallo being eligible for the 2017 NBA Draft — since he can use the Thon Maker way to go pro.
If Diallo plays immediately for Kentucky then he isn’t going to take starting minutes from De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe. Those guys are doing just fine in Kentucky’s starting lineup. But Diallo could provide valuable depth and another athletic defender on the perimeter. Dominique Hawkins is an experienced senior who is good at pressuring the ball. Diallo could join him in a Kentucky perimeter second unit that can really get after the ball handler.
One NCAA tournament coach at USA Basketball tryouts last summer said Diallo was among the best trap defenders he had ever coached. So if Diallo is unleashed off the bench in a full-court trap situation that could be a nice weapon to have in certain situations.
If Diallo redshirts then it would be a good sign that he’s not going to look towards the NBA and would likely go to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. Diallo is an athletic freak who can play well above the rim, rebound from the perimeter and defend multiple spots on the floor but he does have holes in his game.
Adding a more consistent perimeter jumper to his game would be very beneficial to Diallo’s development — and NBA draft perceptions — and he could also stand to improve his overall offensive polish. Far from a finished product, Diallo is a huge prospect if he can add the skill level to match.
Since the 2017 NBA Draft is so loaded this season — I mean, you’ve seen all these freshmen we’ve been talking about, right? — it would be tough for Diallo to make a dent in mock drafts if his intentions are to be a first-round draft pick this summer. This would be especially true since Kentucky has so many quality guards earning minutes in front of him and Diallo likely wouldn’t get much of a chance to shine — if he even plays in the first place.
But there is still plenty of time for Diallo to be molded into an ideal NBA two-guard and he could give Kentucky a nice additional toy to play with off the bench for the rest of the season.
If Diallo also happens to stick around for the 2017-18 season it would give the Wildcats a joke of a recruiting class that would include five, five-star players — point guard Quade Green, Diallo, forward Jarred Vanderbilt, forward P.J. Washington, center Nick Richards — and four-star guard Shai Alexander.