The most tantalizing mystery coming out the NBA combine is a Queens kid with outrageous hops.
You can’t even consider Hamidou Diallo a one-and-done prospect because he never played a single game for the Kentucky Wildcats. He only practiced after joining the team midseason. He is none-and-done. But as Diallo elevated to ridiculous heights, so too did rise his draft stock.
Heeding the advice of John Calipari, Diallo did not participate in any 5-on-5 drills or even pick up a basketball at the combine. But he did show off his vertical — 44.5 inches — which was the second-highest in combine history behind former Memphis star D.J. Stephens.
“They don’t know (how you play). Well, don’t show them,” Calipari said. “They all like you without watching you. Good. The more you don’t play, the more they like you, the more they’re impressed.”
Of course before 2006, a prospect drafted with no college experience was very common. Think LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett. And then there were the less-successful like Eddy Curry, Jonathan Bender and Sebastian Telfair.
Even after the NBA changed its rules so that players could no longer be drafted straight out of high school, there have been cases for Diallo to follow. Enes Kanter was taken third overall in 2012 after being ruled ineligible for his freshman season at Kentucky. Just last year, Thon Maker was drafted 10th by the Bucks after skipping his freshman year.
But Diallo isn’t projected to be such a high draft pick. There are questions about whether an NBA team will take a chance on the 18-year-old in the first round, and he’s leaving open the possibility of returning to Kentucky by not yet hiring an agent.
“He’s extremely tough and gritty,” Kentucky teammate DeAaron Fox said. “But he’s from (Queens). All the New York guards are like that. His ball skills are better than what I thought they were. He can shoot the ball but he’s going to have to shoot it better from the NBA 3-point line.”
At this point, there is little evidence of Diallo playing organized basketball. He was an unknown at John Bowne High School in Flushing, before he jumped on the national scene after transferring to a prep school in Connecticut.
He joined Kentucky midway through last season and decided against playing.
“If someone takes him in the lottery I will retire,” Calipari said. “Four months, doesn’t play, lottery pick, I’m done. I’m stopping.”
Calipari said that before Diallo jumped out of the gym. He may have to renege.