Kentucky may have produced its first none-and-done.
Heralded shooting guard Hamidou Diallo announced on Twitter on Sunday evening that he is declaring for the NBA draft without ever playing a game for the Wildcats. The 6-foot-5 wing is not hiring an agent, so he’ll have until May 24 to withdraw from the draft and return to school if he chooses.
Since Diallo graduated from high school last spring and turns 19 in July, he’s eligible for this year’s NBA Draft. He enrolled at Kentucky at the start of spring semester and practiced with the Wildcats during the second half of the season. but he chose not to appear in any games because it was in his best interest.
Trying to come in at midseason and make an impact is not easy, even for a five-star prospect with first-round talent. Diallo could have damaged his draft stock if he struggled or if he could not crack the Kentucky rotation behind Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins.
“When I decided to enroll in school in January, my plan was to come to Kentucky to work on my game and to focus on school,” Diallo wrote Sunday. “At the end of the season, I knew I wanted to see where I was in the draft process and go through that so I could get a proper evaluation.”
“That plan hasn’t changed and that’s why I am declaring for the NBA Draft. I want to see where my game is and explore my options.”
Diallo would be a potential first-round pick if he stays in this year’s draft because of his physical tools and sky-high upside. He has a 6-foot-10 wingspan, an explosive first step to the rim and a high-level motor, all of which would make it easy for a team in the latter half of the first round to fall in love with his long-term potential.
Returning to Kentucky would be a high-risk, high-reward gamble for Diallo.
On one hand, he could improve his ball handling, passing and shooting and solidify himself as a 2018 lottery pick. On the other hand, he would be risking either injury or failing to meet expectations when placed under a microscope with the Wildcats.
For Kentucky, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of getting Diallo back next season. The Wildcats will likely lose eight of their top nine players from last season, meaning they will lean even more than usual on their newcomers.
Diallo was expected to be a centerpiece of next year’s team. Depending on the feedback he receives from NBA teams the next four weeks, he may instead be Kentucky’s first none-and-done.