At this point in the cycle, recruitments are generally straightforward. Prospects are down to very few schools, and they’re just waiting until the next signing period to announce.
Hamidou Diallo’s recruitment is anything but straight-forward.
The five-star wing from New York who attends Putnam Science Academy (Connecticut), has several different available options -- with a timetable that has been sped up in recent weeks. Diallo, No. 11 in the ESPN 100 tweeted on Wednesday night that he will announce his college decision on Saturday evening.
The reason for the accelerated schedule is Diallo exploring the option of enrolling in college for the second semester. There had been rumors about this for a few weeks, but it’s emerged as the most likely course of action. Diallo took an official visit to Connecticut on December 22, and followed it up with a trip to Kentucky on Dec. 26. The other school still involved is Arizona, although the Wildcats didn’t get him on campus for a visit. Syracuse, Kansas and Indiana are also on his list, but they’re unlikely to land Diallo.
If Diallo is to enroll at one of the three schools for the second semester, a decision has to come very soon. According to academic calendars, Kentucky’s first day of classes for the spring semester is January 11; Connecticut’s is January 17; and Arizona begins on January 11.
Like Austin Wiley at Auburn, Diallo would be eligible to play this spring, but there’s the question of whether Diallo would actually play during the second semester -- or sit out this spring and wait until the 2017-18 season to play.
Kentucky: Kentucky is rolling right now. The Wildcats are the second-highest scoring team in the country and third in offensive efficiency -- they don’t need much of a scoring boost. Moreover, they are loaded on the perimeter with the backcourt of De’Aaron Fox, Isaiah Briscoe and Malik Monk. John Calipari needs a wing for the 2017-18 season, though. All three of Fox, Briscoe and Monk could go to the NBA, and the Wildcats are just bringing in five-star point guard Quade Green (No. 22) and four-star point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 44). They recruited John Petty (No. 25) and Lonnie Walker (No. 19), but the two five-star wings went to Alabama and Miami, respectively. Diallo enjoyed playing with Green at USA Basketball, and that duo could team up again.
Right now, Diallo going to Kentucky and waiting until next season to play is the option getting the most buzz, according to multiple sources.
Connecticut: The Huskies need him more immediately, as they are down to eight scholarship players and have lost three straight games to drop to 5-8 on the season. Diallo could instantly slot into the lineup and give Kevin Ollie another scoring weapon on the wing. The Huskies rank in the bottom 100 nationally in offensive efficiency; they simply don’t have many weapons. If Diallo waits until next fall, he could form an explosive perimeter group with Jalen Adams, Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier, the latter two of which have been injured for most of the season.
Arizona: The Wildcats had some momentum for Diallo in early December, but that’s since quieted down as they were never able to get him on campus for a visit. Due to injuries and the Allonzo Trier situation, Sean Miller has been shorthanded for much of the season. There are only four scholarship perimeter players on Arizona’s roster, and Diallo could certainly add some punch alongside Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons on the wing. Next fall, Diallo could start immediately -- as Alkins and Simmons could both enter the NBA Draft after their freshman seasons. Arizona has a top-five recruiting class for 2017 right now, but the Wildcats are missing an elite wing; Diallo could fill that void.
There’s another potential path, too.
Because Diallo graduated from Putnam Science last spring and is doing a post-grad year at the school now, he is eligible for the NBA Draft. This scenario built up some steam during the fall, and appeared more likely several weeks ago. Diallo didn’t play well in front of a couple dozen NBA personnel at the National Prep Showcase in November, but had perhaps his best performance in a long time at the National High School Hoops Festival in December. His athleticism and ceiling are enough to get him drafted, but would he land in the first round? Scouts are split, but if his jumper continues to improve and he performed well in workouts, there’s certainly a good chance.
Diallo could theoretically enroll at a school next week, sit out for two months, then enter his name into the NBA Draft.
Diallo has three separate decisions to make -- which school, when to play, and NBA -- but we should get answers on the first two situations in the coming days.