BY LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky freshman Hamidou Diallo has until May 24 to take his name out of the NBA draft, something that Tom Espinosa, Diallo’s coach at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut, still thinks he will do even though more and more draft analysts seem to think it won’t happen.
Diallo enrolled at UK in January. He chose not to play and prepare for next season with the possibility that he might put his name into the draft to get evaluation from NBA personnel. He’s been projected as a late first-round pick in some NBA mock drafts.
Espinosa said when Diallo got to Kentucky that he felt confident he would be at UK next season. The coach said NBA scouts that came by Putnam last season told him Diallo was not skilled enough and sometimes didn’t play hard enough. But some draft analysts have praised Diallo’s motor.
“Those were the knocks on him. He’s also more suited for an up and down game than he is half-court game like you have a lot in college,” Espinosa said.
Some have questioned his outside shot even though UK players insisted it improved dramatically while he was in Lexington. Diallo said the same thing in March.
“He told me he had a great time at Kentucky even though he didn’t play,” Espinosa said. “And it was his choice not to play. He could have played and helped any team. He’s 6-6. He is freakishly athletic. He’s really long and that helps a lot on defense.
“He’ll have a decision to make but I still think he will be back at Kentucky. That was his plan when he picked Kentucky. I don’t think that is going to change, but then again he has enormous talent and potential that is really easy to see.”
The good news now for Kentucky is that if Diallo does leave for the NBA, Knox is now in the fold to help offset that loss.
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