By Laura Amato
Hamidou Diallo tested the waters and now he’s ready to wade out of the metaphorical pool.
The Kentucky freshman and Corona native announced his decision to pull out of the NBA Draft May 24, opting instead to return to the Wildcats.
“I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season,” Diallo said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school.”
Last month, Diallo announced, also via Twitter, that he would explore the possibility of the NBA, but he didn’t sign with an agent – leaving open the option of returning to school. He had until midnight last Wednesday to decide whether or not to remain in the draft and his tweets came in just under the buzzer.
Diallo was rumored to be a possible late first-round pick, according to reports, but the guard said he was ready for a different challenge. Hearing his name called in the draft could wait.
“Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title,” he tweeted. “I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”
Diallo might be ready to get back to school, but his brief dip into the NBA pool was chock-full of speculation, and just a bit of awe. The 18-year-old drew headlines and questions throughout the NBA combine in Chicago, posting the highest vertical leap in the class – the highest in combine history – and he had solid finishes in the three-quarters-court sprint and wingspan portions as well.
There were still concerns about his ability to jump directly from prep school to the NBA. While Queens hoops fans might be certain Diallo could make it as a pro, the former John Bowne player wasn’t willing to take any risks.
It’s a decision that also has the support of Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“I’m really proud of [Hamidou],” Calipari tweeted last Thursday morning. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams.”
Calipari and the Wildcats will replace all five starters from last year’s Elite Eight team. Diallo will look to rack up the minutes once he suits up in Kentucky blue for the first time.
He’s not ruling out the NBA – far from it – but, for now, Diallo is ready to work on his game and he’s got his sights set on a championship run this winter.
“The one thing I’ve learned through this whole process is how grateful I am that I came to the University of Kentucky,” Diallo tweeted. “Coach Cal and the staff have had my back throughout the entire journey. They were honest with me from the start, had my best interests at heart and walked me through every step. I couldn’t have asked for a better support system.”