This headline caught my eye this morning: “Will Hamidou Diallo become college basketball’s first semester-and-done player?”
An early departure for Diallo was shortly discarded from my brain after his announcement. After seeing Diallo at this summer’s Peach Jam, I didn’t think he could accomplish all he needed to in just one semester to be prepared for the NBA. Still, the Vice Sports headline got me thinking, “So you’re saying there’s a chance?”
The column laid out the case for Diallo to leave for the NBA after just one semester. He has the frame, the raw skill-set, and even though the ’17 draft class is loaded, the talent pool is not deep at his position. There’s a solid case to be made for Diallo to pull the trigger. Even if he does, it’s a net-positive for Kentucky.
For Kentucky, helping Diallo is a no-brainer. If he ends up deciding to go pro, no big deal. The school had an available scholarship, and coach John Calipari will get credit not only for helping develop yet another NBA player, but also for “innovating” a new development strategy.
Meanwhile, if Diallo stays in school, the Wildcats will enjoy an elite player being all the more ready for college basketball when he first suits up next season. Also, there’s the added benefit that if an unexpected injury happens this season–say, Monk goes down–Diallo is around as a “break glass in case of emergency” option. (After Fox injured his ankle last weekend, Calipari insisted that he would play his son, a walk-on, before Diallo). Even if Kentucky stays healthy, it’s not completely out of the question that the Wildcats could break him out as a secret March weapon; in fact, the team could use a wing athlete who’s taller than 6-foot-3.
If the Big Blue Nation never gets to see Diallo play in a Kentucky uniform, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for John Calipari’s program.