basketball Edit

Diallo makes it official

Hamidou Diallo spoke with UK coach John Calipari during a break in the action of a game this season.
Jeff Drummond/Cats Illustrated

Hamidou Diallo made it official on Monday, confirming rumors that he would hire an agent and enter the 2018 NBA Draft.

The redshirt freshman guard is the fourth underclassman from UK to declare for the draft, joining Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and P.J. Washington. All with the exception of Washington have opted to hire agents, ending their collegiate careers.

“A year ago I tested the waters to get some feedback and then make the best possible decision for my career," Diallo said in a statement released by UK. "I chose to come back, and I’m so happy I did. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Nothing made me prouder than to put that Kentucky name across my chest.

“Coming back to school I knew wasn’t going to be easy. Coach Cal told me it would be the hardest thing I would ever have to do, and it was. But I grew up and became a man this year on and off the court. I know I’ve only scratched the surface with my game, but I’m now prepared to do it because of the work I’ve put in at Kentucky and the support of everyone at this university. With that said, I’m entering my name into the 2018 NBA Draft and am ready to take the next step."

The NBA Draft will be held June 21 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Kentucky coach John Calipari supported Diallo's decision.

“I remember going through this process with Hami last year,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “In both cases, our conversations were about what was best for Hami. Last year he wanted to come back to put on that Kentucky jersey in a game for the first time, compete for a championship and improve his game. He did all three this season.

“Hami got better in all areas of his game. True growth happens when you get knocked down to the point of questioning yourself. We already knew how talented of a player Hami was physically and athletically, but we all learned about Hami’s toughness, his character and his desire to win. I am so proud of his growth from beginning to end. He’s prepared to succeed and will succeed. He’s the best athlete in the draft who’s continued to improve his shooting. He’s only touched his true talent. I wish I had the opportunity to coach him another year, but I understand and support his decision.”

The 6-foot-5 wing posted a 44.5-inch vertical jump at last year's draft combine, the best of any player at the event. He averaged 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while starting all 37 games for the Wildcats in 2017-18.

Diallo topped the 20-point mark on three occasions, including a 22-point, eight-rebound performance against Buffalo in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Since Calipari joined the UK program in 2009, the Cats have produced 31 NBA Draft picks over eight seasons, 14 more than the next closest school (Duke). Included in the 31 are 24 first-round selections, three No. 1 overall picks, 12 top-10 selections and 17 lottery picks.

Of the 21 players in the Calipari era who declared for the NBA Draft after one season at Kentucky heading into this season, all 21 were drafted in the first round.