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Five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo is the No. 10 player in the class of 2017, but much like current freshman phenom Dennis Smith did a year ago at NC State, it looks like Diallo will enroll early at a college and be on a roster within the next two weeks.
Diallo, a 6' 6", 180-pound shooting guard who graduated from high school in the spring of 2016, is set to announce his college decision on Saturday in his home state, New York.
The finalists for Diallo are Kentucky, Arizona, Indiana, Connecticut, Kansas and Syracuse. Diallo made recent visits to both Kentucky and UConn, and those schools are considered the favorites to land him. At this point, all indications are that Kentucky will be his pick.
While this all seems fairly straight forward, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is this is a very complex situation, and one that we haven’t witnessed in the one-and-done era. In fact, there is no guarantee that Diallo will play one minute of basketball at the school he chooses. That’s because Diallo, who graduated high school in the spring of 2016, is eligible for the NBA draft in June.
It seems likely that Diallo will enter the draft, where he is projected as a first-round pick. Because of that, Diallo has to decide how much he wants to bet on himself, and schools have to decide how that affects his collegiate play. Assuming he enters the June draft like most expect, Diallo< has a few options.
One option is to go to school at semester and play. For most this would seem like the most logical option. Diallo, who is one of the best players in the country, would step into what would likely be a loaded roster if he goes to Kentucky, and would have a chance to show NBA scouts what he can do, compete for a national title, and play on one of the biggest stages in college sports.
The other option is to enroll at a school and not play. To most this probably would seem illogical, because why would he go to college if he had no intention of playing? However he could take this option, simply working out and practicing at the school he chooses, and then entering to the NBA draft at the end of the season.
The choice is so interesting because NBA teams have shown in the past several drafts that they place great value on the unknown. (Consider the Bucks selecting Thon Maker at No. 7 overall despite him never having played college basketball.) When NBA teams see players in action for longer periods of time, they find more flaws and they can often lower a player’s stock.
For a player like Diallo, this is a big deal. Diallo is an elite athlete who can get to the rim and will be very versatile on the defensive end. However, Diallo’s biggest weakness is his ability to shoot the ball. Last summer, playing in the Nike EYBL with the New York Rens, Diallo shot only 20% from three-point range, and in general struggled to make jump shots with any kind of consistency.
Now NBA teams have been scouting Diallo all high school season. More than 20 were at the National Prep Showcase in November to see him play, but that is such a small sample size that the scouts aren’t going to have a complete feel for his game.
Assuming Diallo declares for the draft, he will likely go through individual workouts for NBA teams. In those workouts shooting drills will no doubt be included, but also that is a limited scope of a player’s game. Diallo remains more “unknown” if he avoids the college level. The college game also could provide a troubling learning curve for him, since he would be joining a team with chemistry in mid-season, and he might have trouble adjusting despite his abilities.
Considering that situation, it seems unlikely that Diallo would play up to his capability if he does suit up for a college this season. Because of that, the general consensus is that Diallo will never play a game of college basketball, and will simply be a practice player during his time on campus.
This will give Diallo a chance to get major college coaching, compete in practice against elite level college athletes, and also have the p.r. machine of a college coach saying how well he has played, and how good of a pro he will be before the draft.
Time will tell on exactly what Diallo decides to do, but at the moment it seems a commitment and enrollment are coming, but basketball fans might have to wait a long time before ever seeing Diallo play in an organized game.