On the eve of five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo’s college announcement, Kentucky remains the favorite to land the promising basketball recruit.
Diallo is listing six finalists — UK, UConn, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas and Syracuse — but only Kentucky and UConn have hosted him for official visits, and it’s become clear in recent days that he will pick one of those two schools during his announcement ceremony Saturday at 5 p.m.
“I like Kentucky in this one,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “They’ve done a really good job recruiting them — not that the others haven’t — but I think they’ve laid out a plan that he likes, and I would consider them the favorite heading into Saturday’s announcement.”
The plan is for Diallo to commit to the Wildcats on Saturday and immediately enroll in classes at UK. The 6-foot-5 recruit from Queens, N.Y., graduated from high school last spring and has been playing this season as a post-graduate player at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut.
He has already informed Putnam that he will not be returning to the team, and he’s expected to enroll in college classes for the spring semester. Classes at UK begin Wednesday.
Diallo would also be eligible to play college basketball right away — pending what should be a routine clearance by the NCAA — but Daniels does not expect him to actually play any games for the college of his choice this season.
“I don’t think that’s on the table,” he said. “I think he’s going to enroll and work out with the team. … He wants to get to college, get in a college weight room, get in a college practice and go against college players and get better.
“The truth is, Hamidou has maxed out his potential as a high school player, and he can go into a college environment and really work on his game.”
The Herald-Leader has also been told that UK expects Diallo to sit out the remainder of the season while practicing with the team, then return to play next season.
I think Kentucky is also excited about the opportunity, because that gives them another guy in practice to go against Isaiah Briscoe and Malik Monk. He might not be playing for them this year, but he’s going to help them in practice.
Evan Daniels, Scout.com analyst
Scout.com ranks Diallo as the No. 1 shooting guard and No. 10 overall prospect in the class of 2017, a group that has provided UK with commitments from five-star players Quade Green, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington, and four-star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Diallo would be the highest-ranked prospect to join UK’s recruiting class, which is already ranked No. 1 in the country.
Even if he doesn’t play this season, Diallo could have a positive impact on the current team, while honing his own game.
“The benefit is, he’s going against college players every day,” Daniels said. “There are good players at Hamidou’s prep school. But they’re not college-ready, physical players. I think he’ll get better against those Kentucky guys every day in practice.
“And I think Kentucky is also excited about the opportunity, because that gives them another guy in practice to go against Isaiah Briscoe and Malik Monk. He might not be playing for them this year, but he’s going to help them in practice.”
Since he graduated from high school last spring, Diallo is eligible for this year’s NBA Draft, meaning it’s possible that he comes to Kentucky for a semester and moves on to the pros without ever actually playing for the Cats.
Diallo has repeatedly said that he plans on playing college basketball next season — and DraftExpress.com does not project him as a pick in this year’s NBA Draft — but the option to go pro after this season still remains.
“I believe that his mindset is that he is going to play at Kentucky next season,” Daniels said. “But I also think he’ll at least go through the (draft) process. It would surprise me if he didn’t test the waters like everybody else.”