On Wednesday afternoon, New York Rens Coach Andy Borman picked up the phone and punched in a text message to Hamidou Diallo, his star player on the Nike-affiliated travel team,
“Hey, man,” Borman told Diallo, “You’ve had a heck of a week.”
He surely has.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Queens, N.Y., made his debut on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit last weekend with a series of performances that further cemented his status as one of the best high school players in the class of 2017.
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On Tuesday, he received a scholarship offer from Duke.
The next day, he landed one from Kentucky during a visit with Coach John Calipari.
“He was extremely excited,” Borman said. “And the best part — and you love to hear it as a coach — is that he was motivated to work harder. His response was, ‘Everybody’s going to be coming for me. I gotta be ready.’ So I know he’s in the gym right now.
“And that’s one of the things that, I think, makes him rare.”
Calipari has been on Diallo’s trail for months, watching him multiple times during his junior season at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut and again last weekend on the Nike circuit.
Diallo is the type of perimeter prospect Calipari has coveted: Athletic and competitive with basketball smarts and a focus on defense not always seen in young, five-star recruits.
“A lot of kids are that talented but don’t have the basketball IQ that he has,” Borman said. “With those three things — size, IQ and athleticism — he should be able to guard, and does guard any position one through three extremely effectively. You put him on a smaller guy, he’s quick enough and faster than they are already and has the length where they have to shoot overtop of him. You put him on a bigger wing, they probably don’t have the athleticism that he does, and he can jam them.
“And if they do want to body him, then he’s already 6-5 or 6-6, so that’s not a problem for him either.”
He’s no slouch on offense.
Diallo uses that elite-level athleticism to get to the basket at will. His highlight reels are filled with video of dunks over much bigger players when he does get to the rim, and he’s developing into a more consistent outside shooter.
Coming out of the high school season, Scout.com ranked Diallo as the No. 1 shooting guard and No. 9 overall prospect in the class of 2017.
Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader that he could be the best overall perimeter player in the country.
“He’s established himself as an elite perimeter prospect because of his athleticism, his competitiveness and the effort that he gives on the defensive end of the floor,” Daniels said. “He came out in the first session of the EYBL and was dominant. He made plays in transition, he made his teammates better and he even made threes, which has kind of always been his weakness.”
Daniels said continuing to work on finding consistency with that three-point shot will be the next crucial step in Diallo’s development.
He’s already earned the opportunity to play college basketball just about wherever he wants. UK and Duke are the latest scholarship offers for a kid who already had them from Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse and several other top national programs.
Daniels specifically mentioned UConn as a possible early frontrunner for Diallo, who plays his high school ball less than 30 miles from that campus. Huskies Coach Kevin Ollie made him a major priority early in the recruiting process, and UConn’s coaches have been regular visitors to Diallo’s school.
But UK will ramp up its recruitment in the coming weeks, and Diallo isn’t expected to make a college decision any time soon.
For the time being, he’s fully focused on his spring and summer with the New York Rens, playing against the best competition on the Nike circuit and continuing to improve his game.
His upside on the court is scary.
“The thing with Hamidou is that, anything he needs to improve on as a player is completely within his realm to improve,” Borman said. “Some guys can improve, but not by much, their foot speed. Or their lateral quickness. Or their fast-twitch ability.
“Everything you can’t teach, this kid has it at the highest level, which makes him gifted. But what makes him special is his work ethic. He’s not a kid that’s just relying on his athleticism. He’s really a kid working on his game. And the more he works on it … the more of a nightmare he’s going to be against anyone he plays against.”