Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Hamidou Diallo Planning to Redshirt at Kentucky, AAU Coach Says It Could Spark a Trend
By CHRIS BARCA & ADAM ZAGORIA
As expected, Hamidou Diallo plans to redshirt at Kentucky this semester and then go full bore for the 2017-18 season, something that his AAU coach thinks could become a trend going forward.
“It makes so much sense,” Andy Borman, Diallo’s coach with the NY Rens, told ZAGSBLOG on Saturday after his commitment. “Hamidou is going to get to lift with the college strength coach. He’s going to get to practice with college kids as opposed to high school. When the team goes on a road trip, he can stay home with a grad assistant and work out two hours a day.
“I could see it becoming more common. If I had a kid that graduated early, I can send him to college for a semester and could spend nine months getting ready. When everyone comes in June for summer school as freshmen, he’s already a sophomore.”
Diallo’s future Kentucky teammates in the Class of 2017 are already looking forward to playing with him even though they won’t arrive on campus until several months after he does.
Meantime, Diallo’s former coach, Tom Espinosa of Putnam Science Academy (CT), confirmed to ZAGSBLOG that Diallo plans to redshirt and aim for the 2018 NBA Draft.
“Hamidou told me he is redshirting and the reason why is he doesn’t want to start right away at Kentucky and not be ready for college basketball — which he is not and he knows,” Espinosa told the Hartford Courant. “Learning all the plays, etc., he doesn’t feel like he’s ready. And, honestly, I think he feels it would hurt his NBA stock, not being prepared, not looking good, not playing well.
“Obviously a lot of things can change,” Espinosa added, “but his plan is to go to Kentucky next week, finish out the spring semester, stay up there in the summer, take classes, work out, go to school and play 2017-18 and enter the 2018 NBA draft.”
NBA scouts still plan to come in this semester and watch Diallo practice against the likes of Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe, all projected 2017 picks by DraftExpress.com.
“It’s real simple,” one scout said. “We will attend practice and evaluate him just like anyone else with the knowledge that he could potentially enter this year’s draft.”
While Diallo remains eligible for the 2017 NBA Draft since he graduated from Putnam Science in 2016, spending this semester training and practicing in anticipation of a full year at Kentucky in 2017-18 should only help him.
“I think the thing that’s going to help him is the weight room,” Borman said. “He works. But imagine him in a weight room with supplements and protein shakes and a nutrition plan. He should be eating like Michael Phelps.
“The only areas he needs to improve in his game are areas that he can improve in. Everything else that you can’t teach or coach, he has, like his motor, competitiveness and intensity. He just needs to be a better shooter and tighten up his handles.”
Diallo had maxed out at the high school level and had nothing left to prove. He’s also not eligible for the McDonald’s All-American Game (because he’s a post-grad), so he’s not missing anything by leaving now.
“I told him the bottom line is how you perform on the court at Kentucky [in games],” Espinosa told the Courant. “That’s when you get evaluated. They’re going to be competing for a national championship. They’re going to be busy playing. So he has got to want to do it himself.
“He’s passing up 25 games with us to ‘work on his game.’ That was my big argument. We do skill work during the day. Our gym is open all the time. To be honest with you, we were disappointed with him in that regard. He told us he didn’t want to lift during the season, because it would mess up his shot. He wasn’t in the gym enough.”
DraftExpress.com once had Diallo projected as the No. 11 pick in 2018, but now he’s not in the site’s 2017 or ’18 mock, so there are definitely aspects of his game he can improve upon — shooting, ball-handling, strength. And who better to help him with that than Kentucky coach John Calipari, who has sent 28 draft picks to the NBA during his time at Kentucky?
“Those are great players,” Diallo said about the Kentucky players. “Just going up there and practicing with them should make me a lot better.
“I just felt like he had a great plan for me and my family, putting me in the right spots. They have the best platform for me to get to the next level and I think that was the biggest thing.”
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.