Hamidou Diallo has decided he wants to play for Kentucky after all. The NBA Draft prospect has pulled himself out of consideration for next month’s Draft and will return to Kentucky to play for the Wildcats.
Diallo announced the move himself on Twitter early Thursday morning shortly after reports circulated that the former 5-star recruit would play for Kentucky this fall.
“Playing in the NBA has always been my ultimate goal,” Diallo said in his statement.
“When I enrolled in January, my plan was to come to Kentucky to work on my game and to focus on academics. At the end of the season, I knew I wanted to see where I was in the draft process so I could get a proper evaluation.”
That plan still hasn’t changed. I hope to play in the NBA one day—just not this season. Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school.”
Diallo was expected to go late in the first round or early in the second round of the June draft. Instead, he joins a loaded Kentucky squad expected to contend for a national title. That could make him a genuine lottery pick in next year’s draft, though most people—including Kentucky coach John Calipari—are excited to see him play at all.
“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a team statement. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship. I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know. He’s a special player and a special person.”
Diallo enrolled at Kentucky for the spring semester but decided against joining the Wildcats in the middle of the season. He then went through the NBA Draft process and attended the combine in Chicago last week, garnering interest from a variety of teams before deciding to return to Kentucky shortly before the deadline on Wednesday night.
Diallo worked out for the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets in recent days, then met with his inner circle and weighed the possibility of being a late first-round pick this year against the chance to turn himself into a lottery pick next year. Draft Express projected him to go 35th overall if he stayed in this draft, while ESPN had him 27th.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported late Wednesday night that several teams picking in the 20s were interested in Diallo, but he never got a high enough guarantee from a franchise to stay in the draft.
Had Diallo stayed in the Draft it would have been interesting to see where he was taken and how he performed without ever stepping foot on the college court. In the era of the one-and-done, it would have been something new and exciting.
Instead, he’ll try to improve his draft position over the next year and show what he can do for Kentucky, which fell just short of a trip to the Final Four this spring. Not a bad consolation prize, really.