UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky’s Diallo growing more attractive with every game he doesn’t play

Hamidou Diallo will attend this week’s NBA Combine but will not participate in five-on-five games.
Hamidou Diallo will attend this week’s NBA Combine but will not participate in five-on-five games.

Hamidou Diallo, who entered this year’s NBA Draft despite never playing in his abbreviated first season for Kentucky, represents basketball certitude in one ironic respect.

“One thing I could say with pretty good certainty is that I think he is probably the biggest mystery in the draft this year,” said Andy Borman, who coached Diallo on the AAU circuit.

This week’s NBA Combine does not figure to completely remove the mystery that surrounds Diallo. He chose not to play in the Combine’s five-on-five games, a decision ESPN analysts Fran Fraschilla and Jeff Goodman applauded.

“It’s a very, very smart move not to play,” Goodman said on a teleconference Tuesday. “Just do the testing, where he will excel. You’d think Kentucky would want him to play in the sense they want him back.”

By reputation, Diallo has exceptional athleticism. Fraschilla recalled Diallo playing two years ago in a Steph Curry camp that included Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith, two players projected as lottery picks in the June 22 NBA Draft.

“Hamidou was every bit at the level of those guys,” Fraschilla said. “He may not go in the top 10. But he doesn’t take a back seat, especially athletically, to any of the guys that are being considered top 15 picks.”

Fraschilla likened Diallo to a pitching phenom who can throw 99 mph fastballs, but needs time to harness his potential dominance.

“He may not be ready for the major leagues,” Fraschilla said of the phenom, “but you don’t mind having him in your farm system.”

Goodman said that NBA scouts question Diallo’s shooting and feel for the game at this ultra early stage of development.

Of course, Diallo has not retained an agent, so returning to UK to play next season remains an option. He has until May 24 to withdraw from the NBA Draft.

Fraschilla and Goodman will be part of the telecasts of the NBA Combine on Thursday and Friday on ESPN2.

As for the two other UK players who will participate in the NBA Combine, the ESPN analysts:

▪  Likened De’Aaron Fox’s speed and athleticism to “a young John Wall.”

▪ Said Bam Adebayo has the potential to “have a place in this league for a long time.”

Joining Fox, Adebayo and Diallo in Chicago will be Isaiah Briscoe. Teammate Malik Monk will not participate. Only Diallo of that group could still return to UK.

Fox and Monk are consensus lottery picks, according to various mock drafts.

The NBA trend toward open-court play enhances Fox’s draft profile, Fraschilla said.

Speed and quickness, the ESPN analyst said, “is going to trump the fact he has to continue to improve his shot. . . .

“You cannot in the modern NBA teach his speed and athleticism. Unlike some of the non-shooting point guards in the league that actually hurt their team, you could safely compare him to a young John Wall.”

Monk, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year according to a media vote, impressed NBA scouts with his consistent effort, Goodman said.

Monk must make a transition from “volume shooter” in high school, AAU and college to efficient scorer in the NBA, the analysts said.

“I wish he was 6-5 rather than 6-3 with an average wingspan,” said Fraschilla, who likened Monk to NBA contributor Jamal Crawford.

“He is still a volume shooter. He had the ultimate green light in high school. He had a green light at Kentucky. It actually hurt them at times. He can put the ball in the basket. There’s no doubt about it. But the fact he is under-sized with below average wingspan for the position, he’s going to have to be what I call a technician.”

As for Adebayo, Fraschilla suggested the various NBA Draft analysts have struggled to accurately assess his potential.

“The draft blog guys had him too high going into college,” Fraschilla said. “Now, they’ve got him too low.”

Adebayo must prove to NBA types that he can run the floor, rebound, set a screen and roll to the basket for a lob pass and defend pick-and-roll action.

Fraschilla said he was convinced Adebayo is capable in all those areas.

“If a team is convinced he can do those things, then he’ll have a place in the league for a long time,” Fraschilla said.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton