BOZICH | Kentucky's Hamidou Diallo NBA Draft strategy working: Lay low, go high
By registering a vertical jump of 44 1/2 inches, Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo silenced at least some of the questions about why he didn't compete in games at the NBA Draft Combine.
CHICAGO, Ill. (WDRB) — Hamidou, we hardly knew ya.
I’m not ready to say that Hamidou Diallo is 100 percent gone from the University of Kentucky basketball program, but I am 100 percent ready to say that Diallo was the buzz name at the NBA Draft Combine Thursday.
When you stir the kind of buzz that Diallo stirred, it does not get you thinking about beating Vanderbilt or Auburn.
Buzz happens when you can fly the way Darrell Griffith flew, outperforming every player here by measuring at 44 1/2 inches in the vertical jump.
“The buzz is that he’s a little better than expected,” said one former NBA coach who attended the workouts Thursday. “I think he’s going to stay in the draft.”
Without playing a game.
At the University of Kentucky — or at the Quest Multisport facility several miles west of downtown Chicago.
It’s am amazing thing, a marketing marvel, potentially John Calipari’s premier player developmental achievement:
The less Diallo plays, the more people talk about him soaring out of the second round (he’s currently ranked No. 37 by DraftExpress.com) to the first round next month.
The only thing Diallo committed to Thursday was keeping the door 100 percent open to a return to Kentucky — and 100 percent open to departing for the NBA.
“I just hope to get good feedback and see where I stand and see what the next move is for me really,” said Diallo, who has interviewed with 10 teams here.
“I’ve heard a mixed amount of things. Plenty of good things and things I need to work on. Definitely a lot of interest. I would just say that I have a good advisor, people in my corner and those are people that I trust
“When they tell me something (like not playing in 5-on-5- competition here) and they’ve been through it, I tend to listen. I’m happy to have them in my corner.”
I think Diallo is the biggest mystery wrapped inside the Draft in years. No college game participation. He joined John Calipari’s program in January, practiced with the Wildcats but never played.
Diallo said that was primarily his call because he preferred not to hurt team chemistry. Freshmen De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk as well as sophomore Isaiah Briscoe had settled into their roles and earned a significant amount of minutes.
Better to leave that alone — even though a reasonable person could certainly argue that Kentucky’s chemistry and NCAA Tournament success could have benefited if Diallo had filled the minutes that went to Mychal Mulder.
Nobody knows if he can shoot like Devin Booker — or like Briscoe.
Diallo wouldn’t be the first guy to jump into the NBA without playing a minute of college basketball. That was the Old School approach, the way that Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and others did it before the league and its Players Association changed the rule to essentially require guys to cycle through one season of college basketball.
I used the word “essentially,” because Diallo jumped from Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy to UK in mid-season — and used his time with the Wildcats to add 8 pounds to his narrow frame.
Officially he weighed 197.4 pounds — 6 feet 3 1/2 inches without shoes, 6-5 in sneakers.
Those are not the extraordinary numbers. The extraordinary numbers were Diallo’s 6-11 1/4 wingspan and 44 1/2 vertical jump.
His wingspan is nearly 5 inches longer than Fox, 2 1/2 longer than Briscoe and 1 1/4 more than Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell.
Word was that his vertical was an inch shy of the combine record. That was set by Kenny Gregory.
“I didn't realize that until somebody came and told me,” Diallo said. “It was (several inches) higher than the previous test that I did.”
Oh, who is Kenny Gregory?
Ask any Kansas fan. You’ll learn that he played for the Jayhawks from 1997-2001 before he was NOT selected in the 2001 NBA Draft, which sent him on a decade long odyssey from the D-League to Great Britain to Italy to France to Turkey to Greece to Italy and back to Greece. I might have missed a stop or two, but none of his destinations were in the NBA.
That’s not to suggest that Diallo will be Kenny Gregory II. It is to suggest that a vertical jump doesn’t guarantee much more than a zillion Twitter mentions
Better that a guy can make a jump shot — and NBA scouts are not certain of that. That’s why any team that selects Diallo in the first round is likely to be a team with multiple first-round selections or a front-office that does not have to fret about being criticized for wasting a pick if Diallo fails.
Diallo has less than two weeks to make his decision.
“Who doesn’t want to be in the first round?” he said “I think every basketball player wants to be in the first round. At the end of the day I’ve just got to make the right decision for me and my family.
“I’m not thinking about making history. I’m thinking about being a basketball player for a long time.”
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