After a less-than-stellar weekend spent in front of dozens of NBA scouts at the National Prep Showcase in Connecticut last month, five-star basketball recruit Hamidou Diallo saw his 2017 draft stock drop considerably.
Diallo — a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Queens, N.Y. — is considered a top-10 prospect in the class of 2017, but his designation as a post-graduate high school player will allow him to skip college and enter next year’s NBA Draft, if he chooses.
This past weekend, Diallo was back on the court at the National Hoops Festival in Maryland, where he played in front of a handful of NBA scouts, but far fewer than the showcase in November.
This time, Diallo showed his full potential.
“The first game of the weekend was as good as I’ve ever seen him play,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “He just showed the full package. Everyone knows he’s athletic and tough and plays with a motor. But he played much more under control than when I saw him at Prep Showcase. And he made jump shots. He made threes, he made mid-range jump shots. … It was promising to see.”
Even before his relative dud of a performance at the Prep Showcase last month, Diallo had repeatedly said that he planned to go the college route. He’s named a list of final schools — UK, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Syracuse and UConn — but he’s also always left the NBA door open, and he doesn’t have to make a decision about his next step until next spring.
“He’s been saying that there’s a pretty good chance that he’s going to college, and I think that’s probably accurate,” Daniels said. “But I wouldn’t count out him going to the NBA. If you’re a team picking between 26 and 30 in next June’s draft, you’re probably not finding a better prospect than him in that range.”
DraftExpress.com: 2017 mock draft
The knock on Diallo, who is one of the most exciting, athletic players in the 2017 class, is that he doesn’t shoot the ball well. The numbers back that up.
Diallo was a 16.7-percent three-point shooter on the Nike circuit this past summer. His high school production in that category hasn’t been a whole lot better.
But his shot doesn’t look bad, and games like Saturday, when he scored 29 points and made shots from all over the court, offer hope for improvement.
“I think if there’s an area that guys can get better at over time, it’s shooting,” Daniels said. “And that’s proven based on a number of guys in the NBA that started as below-average shooters and put the time and effort into it and got better.
“I’m not telling you that Hami has turned himself into a good shooter, because he hasn’t yet. But there’s plenty of time for him to develop that. And his shot mechanics aren’t that bad.”
After that weekend in Connecticut last month, DraftExpress.com, which had Diallo pegged as a late lottery pick in the 2018 draft, dropped him from that draft altogether. That means a projection, for now, of multiple seasons playing college basketball.
If he does go the college route, many recruiting analysts have Kentucky pegged as a possible leader. The Wildcats likely will need more backcourt players who can contribute right away next season, and Diallo is their top shooting guard target.
“I think they’re in great shape,” Daniels said. “I think if he goes to college, I would classify Kentucky as one of a couple of schools that would be the leaders. I’m not going to say they are the leader, but they would have a pretty good shot.”
Latest on Bamba
Mohamed Bamba — a 7-footer from Harlem, N.Y. — remains the top uncommitted prospect in high school basketball, and his recruitment doesn’t appear to be wrapping up any time soon.
Scout.com ranks him as the No. 2 player in the 2017 class.
“Handicapping his recruitment right now is pretty difficult,” Daniels said. “I don’t think Mo knows where he wants to go yet. So, at this point, I don’t know where he’s going. … He’s going to examine all of his options.”
Those options include Michigan and Texas, which have both hosted him for official visits; Kentucky, which hosted him for Big Blue Madness; and Duke, once considered to be the leader in his recruitment.
Daniels wrote last week that, if he had to rank the top three schools in Bamba’s recruitment right now, they would be Texas, Kentucky and Michigan.
That counters the popular narrative over the past few months that Bamba would likely end up at either UK or Duke.
“I don’t think it’s guaranteed to come down to those two, no,” Daniels said.
Recruits on TV
Two of UK’s top recruiting targets in the class of 2018 will be featured in a nationally televised doubleheader Thursday night.
Romeo Langford — a 6-4 shooting guard and the No. 3 player in the class — leads New Albany (Ind.) against La Lumiere (Ind.), one of the best high school teams in the country, at 7 p.m.
Marvin Bagley — a 6-11 power forward and the No. 1 player in the class — will lead Sierra Canyon (Calif.) against Oak Hill Academy (Va.), another prep powerhouse, at 9 p.m.
Both games will be on ESPN2, and both Bagley and Langford already have scholarship offers from Kentucky.
Bagley has narrowed his list to UK, Arizona, Arizona State, Duke, Oregon and UCLA. Langford has offers from UK, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Indiana and several others.