Sidelines with John Clay

Why Hamidou Diallo is making a smart move, plus Monday links

Kentucky's Diallo shows off shooting skills

UK freshman Hamidou Diallo made six straight jumpers during this stretch of the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament practice in Memphis on Thursday. He won't be playing Friday night, but he gave UK fans a small taste of what could be coming next season.
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UK freshman Hamidou Diallo made six straight jumpers during this stretch of the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament practice in Memphis on Thursday. He won't be playing Friday night, but he gave UK fans a small taste of what could be coming next season.

Everyone, calm down.

Just because Hamidou Diallo entered his name in the NBA Draft doesn’t mean the rising redshirt freshman is going to leave the Kentucky basketball team without ever having played a game.

You know the back story. After graduating from prep school, Diallo joined the Cats in January with the plan of just practicing and developing without playing in a game. Some snickered at that arrangement, saying that Diallo would end up wanting to play and John Calipari would end up playing him. Didn’t happen. The two stuck with their original agreement.

All along, the 6-foot-5 guard had said he would sit down with Calipari at the end of the season and discuss whether to put his name in the draft. (Because he turns 19 in July, Diallo is eligible to do just that, despite not having played college ball.) Apparently that’s what happened, and Sunday, the guard out of New York announced that he would test the professional waters.

He is not hiring an agent, however. Thus he is eligible to pull his name out of consideration and return to school. The exit deadline is May 24. Between now and then, Diallo will be evaluated by NBA scouts, who can tell him which parts of his game are in good shape and which need work. If invited to the NBA Combine, he can measure his skills against his peers.

It only makes sense. It’s essentially a free evaluation. If he doesn’t hire an agent, there are no strings attached. Under the current rules, I wonder why all college players don’t do the same thing. What is there to lose? What harm can it do?

Now if Diallo gets enough positive feedback to keep his name in the draft, that brings up a different question. Is it OK for a player to use a college basketball program for the express purpose of getting to the NBA without ever playing in a game?

Calipari has given his answer. When Enes Kanter was ruled ineligible by the NCAA early in the 2010-11 season, Calipari didn’t kick the import to the curb. He allowed him to continue practicing with the team. It made Josh Harrellson better. It made Kanter better. And Kanter went on to an NBA career.

The guess here is that Diallo won't follow the Kanter path. Yes, the NBA loves potential, and reportedly, Diallo has tons of potential. Draft Express ranks him as the No. 22 pick in its 2018 mock draft. He would almost certainly improve his draft status by playing in some college games, however, allowing for NBA teams to see him real-game competition.

Until then, it says here he’s doing a smart thing.

Now some links:

▪ In case you were wondering, this Kentucky baseball team is for real. The Cats took two of three from traditional power LSU over the weekend. Jerry Tipton reports on Nick Mingione and men ripping the Tigers 10-2 on Sunday behind the pitching of Justin Lewis, who happens to be a cousin of former UK basketball star Chuck Hayes.

▪ Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader reports that it was a busy weekend for the UK basketball staff. He has a rundown of the places they  went and the players they evaluated during several recruiting events.

▪ ESPN’s Jeff Goodman has made an exhaustive list of college basketball transfers. It’s exhaustive because the list grows year after year.

▪ One of those transfers, ex-Connecticut big man Steven Enoch, is landing at Louisville. The 6-foot-11 Enoch averaged just 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds last season but was hampered by a foot injury. He will sit out next season and will be eligible for two seasons beginning in 2018-19.

▪ Former UK football commit Mac Jones struggled in Alabama’s A-Day game on Saturday. The true freshman quarterback completed five of 11 passes for 45 yards and threw two interceptions.

▪ David Cloninger of The State in Columbia writes that after the best men's and women's basketball seasons in program history, South Carolina is now a basketball school. The South Carolina women won their first national title. The men reached the Final Four for the first time.

▪ After his domestic violence arrest, Georgia signee D’Ante Demery has been released from his national letter-of-intent. Demery was arrested for allegedly choking the mother of his one-month-old child, reports Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph.

▪ Jeff Schultz of the AJC says Coach Kirby Smart made the right decision quickly.

▪ Tennessee played its spring football game on Saturday, and Mike Strange of the Knoxville News-Sentinel offers five things for the Volunteers off-season. No. 1 is finding a replacement for quarterback Josh Dobbs. Quinten Dormady looked better than Jarret Guarantano in the Orange and White game, but that was just one game.

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