If you’ve never heard of Hamidou Diallo, don’t worry, you’re about to learn a lot about his story because he just tested off-the-charts at the NBA Combine in Chicago and he’s going to be the latest headache for college basketball.
Diallo is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who was a 5-star recruit. He graduated from high school in Connecticut in the Spring of 2016, but waited until January 2017 to announce his college decision. (It’s unclear why he waited.) He picked Kentucky, and enrolled mid-year.
But Diallo didn’t play for the Wildcats. He practiced with the team and worked out with them. Except he’s not just practicing with any team – it’s mighty Kentucky, which had two lottery picks at guard, and a coach who has had 21 players drafted in the first round over the last eight years.
Knowing how much the NBA is enamored with mysterious players – the less they see of you, the more intrigued they are – Diallo made a brilliant choice. In the 2016 NBA Draft, the Bucks selected Thon Maker 10th – and he never played a minute of college basketball.
Diallo gets the best of both worlds – practicing and working out with future pros under the tutelage of a great coach for a few months, and then jumping to the NBA.
The big picture story here is troubling for college basketball – players are looking for any loophole to avoid playing college basketball (and thus not risking a bad stretch, getting exposed in some capacity, or suffering an injury) and going straight to the NBA.
Which brings us to this week at the NBA Draft Combine, where Diallo cemented 1st round status with eye-popping numbers: a 44.5 inch vertical leap and a 6-foot-11.25 wingspan. His vertical leap eclipsed that of Andrew Wiggins.
Even if Diallo’s jumper looks as bad as it is rumored to be, he’s still going to be drafted in the first round on athleticism, and the fact that nobody wants to have whiffed on a kid just to take a player who won’t have nearly his ceiling. How high Diallo goes is a fair question.
But is it absurd to think by the end of this process, he could find himself in the Top 20?
You can’t win the lottery without a ticket. And Diallo’s testing will make teams want to line up to get a ticket.
If you’re college basketball, and you’ve noticed the layoffs at ESPN and Sports Illustrated, you’re concerned about who is going to cover your sport. But you’re also very concerned with the likes of Diallo and others finding ways to avoid the sport and go right to the NBA. College basketball needs to talk to Adam Silver and the NBA about this … and they’re not coming into discussions with any leverage.