Hamidou Diallo hasn’t played a minute of basketball since he wore a uniform for Putnam Science prep school back in the winter.
His next minutes on the basketball court could come in an NBA jersey.
If he decides to stay in the 2017 NBA draft.
Diallo, a highly sought after wing player from Queens, New York didn’t step on the floor for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats after he declared and enrolled there back in January.
With zero college minutes on his resume, his draft stock is rising as General Managers and scouts from around the league took notice of his athletic abilities at the NBA Draft combine.
Diallo made eyes pop open as he recorded one of the best max vertical jumps in the history of the combine, leaping 44.5 inches. It was the highest in the 2017 NBA Draft combine by 3.5 inches and second all-time to D.J. Stephens who recorded 46 inches back in 2013.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) May 10, 2017
The former prep star is following in the footsteps of Thon Maker, another player who didn’t play at the college level. The athletic wing is one of the most mysterious players, just like Maker.
Fran Fraschilla of ESPN had high praise for the mysterious prospect.
With his age and athleticism — and teams coveting prospects with high upside as three-and-D wings — he mentioned during the NBA combine that Diallo could find himself as a potential first-round draft pick.
Fraschilla said teams that hold multiple first-round picks — such as the Portland Trail Blazers, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, and the Utah Jazz — could pull the trigger on Diallo. Although the Milwaukee Bucks did not have a multitude of draft picks at their disposal, they took a chance with Maker.
But the veteran analyst also said the young player from Kentucky faces a tough decision, regardless of his performance in front of GMs and scouts at the combine.
If Diallo decides to keep his name in the draft, he faces the possibility of not hearing his name in the first 30 picks. A return to the college game could benefit him in the draft process, if he wants his name to be called during the lottery portion.
“I would not be surprised myself if his combination of athleticism and skill opens some eyes, and then he’ll have a tough decision,” Fraschilla said. “Do you want to be the 25th pick in this year’s draft, or do you want to have a chance to maybe be a Top-10 pick after your freshman year? I don’t think there’s any question a team will take him in the first round, based on just his age, his size for a guard and that crazy combination of skill and athleticism.”
Diallo’s athleticism gives him an advantage as a player in transition, which could be a real weapon for any team in the league. His frame as a 6-foot-5 guard will allow him to play multiple positions at the next level. Diallo has added 12 pounds of muscle since he enrolled at Kentucky (197 lbs). Despite adding much-needed weight to his frame, his size still allows him to move as a natural guard. With a 6-foot-10 wingspan, he has good size for a shooting guard and as a small forward.
Despite his potential, NBA executives believe he should return to Kentucky.
“He’s a freak athlete but has so much to learn,” one NBA executive said via Jeff Goodman.
Some scouts also weighed in Diallo, saying he’s a D-League player as he currently sits.
“Right now, he’s a D-League player,” said one scout during an interview with SEC County’s Kyle Tucker, “but someone who is so interesting as a prospect that, if you have multiple first-round picks or an early second, he would be great to invest in. It just comes down to the right team having to come through — someone with a D-League team, the perfect situation, maybe a playoff team that can let him develop — otherwise, it’s probably in his best interest to come back and work on his shooting and get bigger and stronger.”
The most athletic player in the 2017 draft class has a choice to make come May 24.
“I think everybody has a different route to the NBA,” Diallo said via the Courier-Journal. “I mean, we can sit here and talk about a lot of people’s different routes they took to get to the NBA. Whatever best suits them. Everybody has a different route.”