Hamidou Diallo is one of the biggest surprises coming out of last week’s NBA Draft Combine. Hands down. The 18-year old guard prospect, who stands 6’5” with a 6’10” wingspan, put his athletic abilities on display, but it was more of his journey to the moment that had people buzzing.
A 5-star recruit coming out of Putnam Science Academy in Putnam, Connecticut, Diallo was the No.1 ranked shooting guard and a top-ten overall prospect in the Class of 2017. He had offers from Arizona, Syracuse, and Connecticut, but eventually chose the Kentucky Wildcats, making him the fifth 5-star signee in John Calipari’s 2017 recruiting class.
The part that makes Hamidou’s recruiting story unique is that he actually graduated from Putnam in the spring of 2016, but decided to spend an additional year at the Academy, a move that brought an extra season of high school basketball, and reclassification as a 2017 recruit. This “post-graduate” strategy is gaining popularity as more high-school prospects look for ways to land scholarships at top tier programs.
Even deeper for Diallo, thanks to the NBA “one and done” rule, which says a prospect must be one year removed from high school and 19 years old, he became eligible for the 2017 NBA draft.
When the decision to play a post-graduate year was made, many believed that Hamidou would head straight to the NBA. But those speculations ended quickly when he enrolled at the University of Kentucky in early January, halfway through his extra season at Putnam. After arriving in Lexington, he joined the Wildcats with plans of only practicing with the team, but not playing in any games. Sticking to the plan, when the season ended in March, Diallo had not played in a single college game, but by April he had already declared for the draft.
So the road to this point has been nothing of the normal type, considering Diallo split a single school semester between being a prep school basketball star and redshirted Division-1 athlete. But despite the untraditional route, his NBA draft stock remains solid as sources have projected him as a first or second round pick. During the combine, Diallo pulled out a jaw-dropping 44 and ½ inch vertical jump, which is the second highest jump in combine history.
However, with a strong performance in the skills drills and measurements portions of the combine workout, questions remain on how well Hamdiou’s game will translate to the NBA, especially considering he has not played in an organized game in over six months. And it is reported that chose against participating in the combine’s 5-on-5 competitions, making it tougher to evaluate him at this point.
By the time the July draft rolls around, Hamidou Diallo will have had opportunities to strengthen his case as a pick in the 2017 NBA draft, but more than that, the backstory makes it obvious why he’s definitely one to watch.