It’s gonna be an interesting week around UK land following the announcement of Hamidou Diallo entering the NBA Draft without hiring an agent. Many suggest this is nothing more than “testing the waters” and he’ll likely be back in Lexington next season. But certainly many in the UK fanbase are simply upset about the principle of the matter that a guy practiced with the team this year, was technically eligible and not played because the assumption was he was going to play next year, and then decides to maybe try out the NBA Draft. If Diallo does leave, there is no doubt his popularity among fans will be one of the lower ones in the Calipari era. And frankly, Cal would take a hit too. But at the end of the day it is his life and not ours. If he can makes serious money in the NBA next season, more power to him. We don’t own him in any way. And he really doesn’t owe us the enjoyment of playing for our team. He is not cheating the system in any way and everybody should have the right to make a legal living without judgement from the public.
What I wonder is if Diallo leaves, and then becomes a good-great player in the NBA, do we claim him? If/when his name is announced at the NBA Draft this summer, it will be followed by “from the University of Kentucky”, so in that regard he is just like the other approx. 520 NBA draft picks under Calipari. The same thing happened to Enes Kanter, who was selected 3rd from UK (technically) even though he never played a single game in Lexington. Now of course Kanter’s story was different than this one because the NCAA got involved and Kanter actually wanted to play, but nonetheless Kanter made no actual impact on the UK program. But I get the sense that the fanbase still claims him as a UK alum.
Would Diallo get the same treatment? I’ve heard nothing but good things about what kind of kid he is. He has caused no problems off or on the court that we know of. The players on this year’s team had nothing negative to say about him. And he has a real shot to be a very good NBA player. Considering the climate we are currently in where schools take their NBA success seriously, and no coach does that more than Cal, you have to wonder what will happen.
Now, this all becomes moot if Diallo returns. But if he doesn’t, it will be one of the more interesting sagas to play out within this fanbase, especially if Diallo has success in the NBA.