Decision day is almost at hand for Hamidou Diallo.
The University of Kentucky freshman basketball player has until midnight Wednesday to withdraw his name from the 2017 NBA Draft if he wants to retain his collegiate eligibility.
Diallo, a five-star recruit who joined the UK team in January, practiced but never played throughout the remainder of the 2016-17 season. He announced April 23 he wanted to “test the waters” by entering the draft without hiring an agent, which meant he could remain eligible to play college basketball if he removed his name by May 24.
The NBA Draft is June 22. Diallo, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, is projected by DraftExpress.com as the fifth pick of the second round. First-round draft picks sign guaranteed contracts. Second-rounders are assured no such guarantees.
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“One of the most athletic guys in this draft. He is a high-character kid . . . He can obviously shoot it. His skill level is what has to improve,” ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said before Diallo took part in the recent NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “(The range of draft picks) 20 to 30 is a total crap shoot. I’d personally take a chance on him if I was a team. I doubt he’ll stay in if he doesn’t have a guarantee (of a first-round pick) from a team. I’m a fan of his. I think his long-term potential going down the road is sky high.”
Bobby Marks, a former assistant general manager for the Nets, agreed.
“If he stays in the draft, I think he’ll have some kind of guarantee . . . in the back end of the 20s,” Marks said. “(If Diallo returns to UK) “and plays well, he’ll be right there where the two freshmen are right now (De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk): the top of the lottery. So I think that’s where he has to risk, where he has to weigh it.”
Even though he has yet to play a college game, Diallo was eligible to enter the 2017 draft because he graduated from high school in May 2016. The native of New York began 2016-17 playing for a prep school in Connecticut but decided Jan. 7 to join UK.
Diallo joined five other 2016-17 Wildcats as early entrants in this year’s draft — freshman Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, and sophomores Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries.— but was the only one to decide not to hire an agent.
“With Hamidou, there is a bit of intrigue there. . . . There’s such an unknown about him,” Marks added. “The body of work is basically high school, and you have this kid who all of a sudden decides to test the water, goes to Chicago and blows the agility testing kind of through the roof. So you’re thinking, hey, wait a minute. Maybe this kid is the next under-the-radar kid. Are we missing out on something?”
If Diallo remains at Kentucky for 2017-18, he would join expected scholarship returnees Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard.
That group will be joined by the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, which includes guards Jemarl Baker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green, forwards Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington, and center Nick Richards.