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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.
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Sunday / December 17.
  • Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo, Nick Richards looking forward to coming home for Monmouth game at MSG

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    Hamidou Diallo grew up in Queens and played high school basketball there before his career path took him to the University of Kentucky.

    But the New York native has never played at the most famous basketball arena in New York City. He will cross that off his bucket list on Saturday when No. 8 Kentucky (7-1) meets Monmouth (3-6) at Madison Square Garden.

    “I’ve never played in the Garden,” the 6-foot-5 Diallo said ahead of Friday’s practice at Baruch College in Manhattan. “It’s every kid’s dream who’s from New York to play there. I’m just going to go out there and treat it like it’s another game.”

    Diallo, averaging 13.6 points and 4.8 rebounds, is now projected as the No. 20 pick in the NBA Draft via ESPN, so this will probably be his only season at Kentucky. (He enrolled in January but sat out the second semester last season and practiced with the team.)

    Diallo expects to have a slew of family and friends on hand Saturday.

    “It’s going to be great,” he said. “I haven’t played there in a long time. It’s just going to be a great experience to see all who’s coming out. I’ve got a lot of family coming that haven’t seen me play in person in a long time. It’s going to be a great atmosphere because Monmouth has a couple of New York guys on their team as well. It’s just going to be a great atmosphere and I’m going to enjoy it.”

    Diallo won’t be the only Wildcat making a return home.

    Freshman forward Nick Richards is a native of Jamaica who first played at St. Mary’s on Long Island before transferring to The Patrick School in New Jersey.

    Celtics head coach Chris Chavannes and many of his current players are expected at Saturday’s game.

     “It’s going to be a great experience,” Richards, averaging 8.6 points and 6.5 rebounds, said of going home. “It’s going to be a great experience just to play at MSG in front of friends and family who have supported me throughout the years playing basketball. I think this is one way of me giving back to that community is just showing out for them.”

    Richards will also be facing his former Patrick School teammate Marcus McClary, a freshman guard on Monmouth.  They were teammates on the Celtics team that last year won the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title under Chavannes and co-coach Mike Rice, who no longer coaches the team.

    “It’s going to be the same as when I played against Harvard when I played against (former high school teammate) Bryce Aiken,” Richards said. “You’re friends off the court and after the game and right before the game, but we’re going to compete as basketball players during the game.”

    Richards is currently projected as the No. 26 pick in the NBA Draft, per ESPN, so he also figures to be a one-and-done at Kentucky.

    Before then, he could be one of several Patrick School players in the NCAA Tournament.

    Minnesota freshman guard Jamir Harris and Seton Hall freshman guard Jordan Walker also played on last year’s championship team.

    Richards, Harris and Walker could all find themselves in the Big Dance come March.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, 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.