By Zach Gewelb
Former Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo, a Corona native who starred for John Bowne High School, had a whirlwind of a night during the 2018 NBA Draft.
Diallo was selected by the Brooklyn Nets with the 45th pick, only to be shipped to Oklahoma City in a draft night trade with the Thunder. The deal was not official until the official start of the league’s season on Friday.
Diallo had originally considered declaring for the 2017 draft before backing out at the last moment.
“The biggest thing for me was I learned how to play through adversity,” Diallo said at the NBA combine in May. “Adversity hit, and I learned what type of person I am. So I learned how to fight myself and how to fight adversity. That’s just going to make me a better player, which it already has.”
After opting out of the 2017 draft, Diallo focused all his energy on improving his game at Kentucky under head coach John Calipari.
“Playing in the NBA has always been the ultimate goal for me,” Diallo posted. “It’s part of what makes Kentucky so special that it prepares you for the next level better than anywhere else.”
Diallo, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, had an up-and-down season for Kentucky, shooting 33.8 percent from 3-point range and converting just 61.6 percent of his free-throw attempts. He spent much of the spring semester stuck in a deep slump that saw him fail to reach double digits in points in 13 of Kentucky’s final 16 games.
But it wasn’t all bad. He showed a few glimpses of his potential down the stretch, including a 22-point performance on 9-of-12 shooting while playing stellar defense in an NCAA Tournament win over Buffalo.
In his high school days, Diallo helped lead the 2016 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team to a gold medal at the 2016 International Basketball Federation Americas U18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile.
He scored 14 points in the final game of the tournament, a 99-84 win over Canada, as Team USA finished with a perfect 5-0 on the court against world-class competition.
Diallo was the fourth Kentucky player selected in the June 21 draft, joining Kevin Knox (No. 9), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 12) and Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 41). Three of those four picks were included in Thursday trades, with only Knox remaining on the team that originally drafted him.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe