Hamidou Diallo chose Kentucky blue over NBA bucks, withdrawing from the 2017 NBA Draft and deciding to provide UK fans what many feared they’d never get to see.
Wednesday was decision day for early entrants to withdraw from the draft or lose their college eligibility. Diallo, a five-star recruit who joined the UK team in January, practiced but never played throughout the remainder of the 2016-17 season. He announced April 23 he wanted to “test the waters” by entering the draft without hiring an agent and met Wednesday’s deadline by deciding he was not quite ready to raft the professional current.
CBS Sports, ESPN and others, citing sources, reported the news around 11:45 p.m. Wednesday. Diallo confirmed the decision personally with a tweet at 12:05 a.m., saying, “Let’s Chase Championship #9 BBN!!”
Diallo’s tweet came with a full statement explaining his decision. The statement, in its entirety, is below.
“For Diallo, a full season at Kentucky — and work on his shot —could make him a high lottery pick,” Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports tweeted after Diallo’s decision became public. “Tremendous NBA intrigue surrounds him.”
The NBA Draft is June 22. Diallo, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, is projected by DraftExpress.com as the fifth pick of the second round. First-round draft picks sign guaranteed contracts. Second-rounders are assured no such guarantees.
“I love the fact that (Diallo) wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship,” Kentucky Coach John Calipari said in a Twitter post. “I can’t wait to get (him) on the court and have all of you fans see what I know. He’s a special player and a special person.”
Even though he has yet to play a college game, Diallo was eligible to enter the 2017 draft because he graduated from high school in May 2016. The native of New York began 2016-17 playing for a prep school in Connecticut but decided Jan. 7 to join UK.
Diallo joined five other 2016-17 Wildcats as early entrants in this year’s draft — freshman Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, and sophomores Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries.— but was the only one to decide not to hire an agent and retain his collegiate eligibility.
Diallo returns to Kentucky for 2017-18 along with expected scholarship returnees Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard, in addition to walk-ons Brad Calipari, Jonny David and Dillon Pulliam
That group will be joined by the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, which includes guards Jemarl Baker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green, forwards Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington, and center Nick Richards.
Full text of Diallo’s statement
“First of all, I want to thank the Big Blue Nation for your support. I’ve only been a Wildcat for five months, but you have already made me one of your own. I know not everyone understood my original decision — but everyone has been supportive. Thank you for that.
“The one thing I’ve learned through this whole process is how grateful I am that I came to the University of Kentucky. Coach Cal and the entire staff have had my back throughout this entire journey. They were honest with me from the start, had my best interests at heart and walked me through every step. I couldn’t have asked for a better support system.
“I also want to thank the university for understanding how important this decision was to me. This is something I had to do for me and my family, and the school has been supportive of us the whole way. Just so everyone knows, I always planned to pay the school back for my spring tuition for allowing me to enroll last semester because I never thought I would be in this position. If I knew I was leaving after the semester, I would have played to help the team.
“Like I said when I submitted my name for the draft, playing in the NBA has always been my ultimate goal. When I enrolled in school in January, my plan was to come to Kentucky to work on my game and to focus on academics. At the end of the season, I knew I wanted to see where I was in the draft process so I could get a proper evaluation.
“That plan still hasn’t changed. I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season. Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title. I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”