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Diallo withdraws from NBA Draft, can’t wait to play in UK jersey for first time next season

By Keith Taylor
KyForward Senior Sports Writer

Hamidou Diallo never got the chance to play at Rupp Arena last year. He will get that opportunity next season after withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft late Wednesday night.

“I’m excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season,” Diallo tweeted early Thursday morning. “I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”

Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo opted against staying in the NBA Draft and will play for the Wildcats next season (Keith Taylor Photo)

Diallo declared for the draft earlier this month, but opted against hiring an agent, leaving the door open for a possible return to Kentucky. Although projected as a late first-round pick by many analysts, in the end, Diallo said it was in his best interest to return to school in an effort to build his professional portfolio. Although playing in the NBA is a goal, Diallo said playing for a major college basketball team was another “dream” he wants to achieve in his playing career.

“Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school,” Diallo tweeted. “Although I was part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari praised Diallo for weighing his options carefully and is looking forward to his return.

“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said on his website. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship. I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know. He’s a special player and a special person.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-5 guard, enrolled at Kentucky during the second semester, but didn’t play for the Wildcats last season. He played at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut before enrolling at Kentucky in January. He averaged 19 point and six rebounds per game at Putnam during his senior season. He averaged 17 points per outing as a junior.

He was a Top 10 prospect in the Class of 2017 before reclassifying. Diallo practiced with the Wildcats last season and was eligible to play, but opted to improve his skills and get adjusted to the collegiate scene.

Earlier Wednesday, Diallo cancelled a workout with the New York Knicks. Former teammate Bam Adebayo and Antonio Blakeney participated in the workout with the Knicks. He participated in the NBA Combine earlier this month and impressed league coaches and executives with his athletic ability, but his lack of college game experience was a primary concern.

Diallo reportedly worked out for the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets as he pondered his future plans.

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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