UK Men's Basketball

Big changes in recruitment of Hamidou Diallo, who could enroll in January

Hamidou Diallo is considered the No. 1 shooting guard in the recruiting class of 2017.
Hamidou Diallo is considered the No. 1 shooting guard in the recruiting class of 2017. Nike

The recruitment of five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo has taken another turn this week, and the latest buzz indicates that he could enroll at a college in the next few weeks and be eligible to play the second half of the current season.

A few notes on Diallo’s situation:

▪  He will take an official visit to UConn this week, the first such trip of his recruitment. The Huskies have been recruiting Diallo as long as anyone, and he has a close relationship with Kevin Ollie and the rest of the coaching staff. For much of his recruitment, UConn had been considered UK’s top competition for his commitment.

▪  247Sports recruiting analysts Jerry Meyer and Andrew Slater both changed their Crystal Ball picks Tuesday from Kentucky to UConn. As of Wednesday morning, the Huskies had overtaken the Wildcats as the leader on Diallo’s Crystal Ball page. Meyer wrote Wednesday morning that he is hearing it’s “quite likely” Diallo will join the Huskies for the second half of this season.

▪  Diallo’s friend and former high school teammate, Mamadou Diarra, is a freshman for the Huskies, though he is sitting out this season as a redshirt while he recovers from a knee injury.

▪  UK has made Diallo one of its top targets in the 2017 class, and John Calipari and assistant coach Tony Barbee have visited him several times in the past few months. That said, if Diallo does decide to enroll at a school for this season, UK seems an unlikely destination. The Cats already have plenty of talented guards, so it’s unclear how much playing time he’d get in the 2016-17 season, and Diallo has not yet taken a visit to Kentucky’s campus.

▪  Diallo actually graduated from high school last spring and has been playing this season at Putnam Science Academy (Conn.) as a post-graduate player. He would apparently have little trouble gaining immediate eligibility to play this season if he enrolls for the spring semester.

▪  Diallo’s graduation last spring also made him eligible for next year’s NBA Draft, meeting the requirements of being 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft (he turns 19 in July) and being one year removed from his high school graduation. If he enrolls in college this season, he would still be eligible for the 2017 draft. So there’s a possibility he could play just half a season of college basketball before jumping to the NBA.

▪  If Kentucky misses on Diallo — and that seems likely if he enrolls early — the backcourt options for next season dwindle even more. UK has already signed two talented guards from the class of 2017 — Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — but the Cats could lose all of their scholarship guards from this season’s squad to the NBA (Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk) and exhausted eligibility (seniors Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder). If all five of those players are gone, UK would likely need to add at least two more guards.

▪  Other than Diallo, five-star point guard Trae Young is the only backcourt player from the class of 2017 with a UK scholarship offer, and Kansas and Oklahoma are now considered the leaders in his recruitment. The only other uncommitted, Top 50 guards in the class (according to the 247Sports composite rankings) are point guards Trevon Duval and Matt Coleman, and shooting guards M.J. Walker and Charles O’Bannon, and UK has not been involved in any of those recruitments. Other possibilities include adding a graduate transfer (or two) after the season, or hoping that a talented guard from the 2018 class will reclassify to 2017, though no “reclass” possibilities have emerged so far.

▪  Spring classes at UConn begin Jan. 17.

▪  247Sports ranks Diallo — a Queens, N.Y. native — as the No. 1 shooting guard and No. 9 overall prospect in the class of 2017.