UK Men's Basketball

Hamidou Diallo’s coach — a former Duke player — ready to root for Kentucky

Hamidou Dialllo announced his commitment to Kentucky on Saturday.
Hamidou Dialllo announced his commitment to Kentucky on Saturday. AP

New York Rens Coach Andy Borman said he could be identified as the one “jumping up and down” in excitement after his star player, Hamidou Diallo, announced his commitment to the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday night.

Borman, a Duke basketball player in the early 2000s and a member of the Blue Devils’ 2001 national championship team, said he never thought he’d one day be rooting for UK.

“This is going to be the first time in my life that I will wear a Kentucky T-shirt and cheer for a Kentucky team,” he said with a laugh.

He’ll do so happily for the next couple of seasons or so.

Like many others in Queens, N.Y., on Saturday evening, Borman braved the winter weather to support Diallo at his college announcement ceremony. Afterward, he spoke to the Herald-Leader about Diallo’s decision to commit to the Cats and enroll in classes at UK right away, but not play in games until next season.

What was the atmosphere like in the room when Hamidou committed?

“He was super excited. And the place they did it at is where Hami played CYO ball when he was 8, 9 years old. I don’t know what the weather reports say, but it’s been snowing since 7 a.m., there’s probably a foot of snow on the ground and the place was packed. I live 8 minutes away and it took me 90 minutes to get there. And it just shows how much of an impact Hamidou has made in the community. He’s a legitimate hero to a lot of these kids.”

What do you think about his decision to go to Kentucky right away?

“I think it’s great. I think it’ll be interesting to see if becomes a trend. This is what super-elite quarterbacks do every single year. You’re telling me that Hamidou is going to be on campus in three days, and he’s going to start — not only his academic education — but his basketball education. Instead of starting in summer school, he’s going to get John Calipari for five extra months. He’s going to get your strength coach and your assistant coaches, and to play with and against some of the best players in the country. What an extremely terrific and mature decision for Hamidou.”

What will being on campus for those four or five extra months do for his development?

“I think it’s going to be incredible. The thing with Hamidou is that everything you cannot teach about basketball, he’s got in spades. Literally, every single intangible, everything athletically, he’s got that. He’s a 10 out of 10. And I think what that staff is going to do with his skill set — and obviously he’s already extremely advanced; Kentucky doesn’t recruit players who aren’t the best of the best — but I think him working with those guys who are at the top of the industry, I think it’s going to be incredible. His unveiling by next season is going to be awesome. The other thing is that he knows the kids who are already committed (for 2017). Shoot, it’s like an EYBL all-star team. It’s incredible, man. I’m fired up.”

Matching up Hamidou and point guard Quade Green, what do you think that backcourt dynamic will be like?

“Quade and Hamidou are absolute winners. Unfortunately, I had to coach against Quade, which is certainly something you don’t ever want to do. Quade is an incredible player. And, I can’t say that I know him the way I know Hamidou, but he seems like the perfect point guard that everyone would want to play with. I think it makes perfect sense.”

The plan is to come in and practice with the team but not play until next season. Why not try and play right away this season?

“It would be hard for everybody involved. These kids have been lifting, running, doing conditioning, practicing, doing skill work together since the summer. They know every set, every audible, offensive and defensively, that Coach Cal has put in. So, for a kid like Hamidou, he needs to just come in and learn. Instead of playing second semester and playing catch-up, why not just play next year and have him be ahead of the curve. That’s what I’d say. And instead of having the current Kentucky players learning how to be one with him and him be one with them, on the fly. So I think it makes a lot of sense, not just from an individual standpoint, but from a team standpoint.”

How much do you think guys like Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk can gain from practicing against Hamidou every day?

“When I was in college, in 2001, we won it all. And one of the biggest reasons that we won it all, that not as many people talk about, is the fact that we had Dahntay Jones sitting out as a transfer. So, every single day in practice, our starting five got to play against an NBA-caliber player on our scout team. So Duke is preparing for UNC, and Dahntay is UNC’s best player. And don’t get me wrong, Kentucky has, one through the end of that bench, they’re all terrific players. But, for Hamidou specifically, having the opportunity to play with and against those guys daily, is going to rapidly increase his development. And, I think for the current team, having a kid of his caliber to play against every day, I think it’s going to make them better. He’s not going there to be an individual. He’s going there to be a part of the team.”