Tonight was fun for many reasons, but none more so than Hamidou Diallo’s performance. After a month of bad games and criticism, Diallo bounced back, putting up 11 points, two rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal, earning a standing ovation from his teammates and the Rupp Arena crowd.
“I gave Hami a hug in front of the team,” John Calipari said. “They gave him a standing ovation. You know, it’s been hard, and I wasn’t going to kick him to the curb. I wasn’t going to throw him under the bus. It’s been hard. I’ve been spending, I told the team, 90% of my team has been figuring out how to I get this kid going, but I’ve got to win games. And I told them, if someone’s not playing great, it’s okay, just be better next game. But don’t expect to play when someone’s playing better.”
Calipari said Hami’s one of the players that’s been in the gym shooting late at night, which affirms his belief that the freshman could turn it around.
“Hami, I’ve been in the office 10, 11 at night, I look out and he’s out there shooting. I feel so good that I can stick with him.”
According to Hami, that support made a difference.
“It shows that I have a great group of guys around me to just help me through tough times,” Hami said of his teammates. “They know what type of player I am and what I went through.”
“I love the fact that our fans gave Hami a standing ovation,” Calipari said. “That’s what fans should do. Instead of being down on the kid — that’s someone’s son, that’s someone’s child. If it were their child, how would you want them to be treated? And now all of a sudden, they have taken it — you should see the smile on his face in there. The players love it. They knew he was struggling.”
Hami’s big dunk in the second half said it all:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 25, 2018