Diallo’s biggest challenge lies ahead in upcoming season


Hamidou Diallo

Hamidou Diallo might only be entering his second semester at UK, but it feels like he has already experienced a lot.

Despite not playing in any games last season, Diallo was a part of last year’s team that made it to the Elite Eight. Shortly afterwards he participated in the NBA Combine and went through the NBA Draft process, where he received many positive reviews during the weeks of getting evaluated by NBA teams.

Diallo wound up deciding to come back to UK just minutes before the deadline to pull his name out of the NBA Draft pool. That decision has set up Diallo’s biggest experience at UK as of yet, which is the upcoming 2017-2018 season.

“I feel like it’s just been practice, practice, practice, practice for a whole year now,” Diallo said. “I’m just waiting for my time, I’m not in any rush, I just feel like good things are going to happen in the future.”

Diallo’s decision to come back to UK instead of continuing on in the NBA Draft was a big one for UK, as he projects to be one of the top players on the team.

However, Diallo didn’t come back to UK to help out the Cats. He could’ve stayed in the NBA Draft and would’ve likely been selected before the night was over.

When it came to decision-making time, Diallo was focused on making one person happy, himself.

“It just felt like me coming back was the best decision for me,” Diallo said. “Wasn’t about not being ready or anything like that, it was just, ‘what is the best decision for you to do right now for your career.’”

Diallo’s decision wound up making a lot of other people happy, as fans of UK basketball are excited to see what the athletic guard can do. Over the summer competing for Team USA at the U19 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Diallo provided a glimpse of what he’s got to offer on the court, and it only made fans more excited to see him in a Kentucky jersey.

Despite the buzz surrounding Diallo, head coach John Calipari knows that he, and the other freshmen, have a long way to go until they make an impact on this team.

“What I’m trying to get these guys to understand is none of them are there yet. And if you think you are, you’re delusional,” Calipari said.

Diallo has yet to play in a college basketball game, and has only played in seven games (all at FIBA U19 World Cup) since committing to Kentucky. It will likely take some time for Diallo to shake of the rust of not playing in many competitive basketball games recently.

Another challenge that presents Diallo this season is stepping into the leadership role he seems likely to fill. It’s not often that freshmen are considered leaders on a team, but at a place like Kentucky where players are turning pro left and right, that leaves Diallo as one of the most experienced players on the young roster.

“I’ve talked to Hami (Diallo) about that,” Calipari said.” “I said, ‘Man, you can’t go off in your room and put your headphones on. These guys gotta know you are there for them. They gotta know it. They gotta know you’re not just here to do your thing.’”

Diallo knows he’s stepping into a leadership role, a role he looks forward to being in. However, the thing that makes being a leader tough for Diallo is learning communication with all of his players.

“Getting to know everyone, getting to know how everyone reacts, getting to know how you respond and talk to every teammate, cause every teammate is different,” Diallo said. “That’s just been the toughest thing but once I got that down pat, everything has been easy now.”

Diallo has a lot on his plate for this upcoming season, but the extra semester of experience he got when he enrolled early will help his transition to leading this young team.

If Diallo can do what coaches and players say they expect of him, it could be a good season for the athletic guard.