Big Blue Notes: NBA waters tested, Diallo returns to Wildcats

Eric Howard is a Calvert City native who lives in Lexington and is a committed UK Wildcat fan. His column 'Big Blue Notes' appears regularly in The Lake News.

Eric Howard is a Calvert City native who lives in Lexington and is a committed UK Wildcat fan. His column ‘Big Blue Notes’ appears regularly in The Lake News.

Diallo returns to the Cats
With just minutes before the deadline to withdraw his name expired, Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo opted to put his professional aspirations on hold for a year and return to Lexington for his redshirt freshman season. The New York native was the last person to remove his name before the clock struck midnight this past Wednesday evening.

For Wildcat fans, it was a long, anxiety filled evening with massive implications for next season’s roster. For Diallo, it was just a matter of giving NBA squads as much time as possible to make him a firm offer in the upcoming draft. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard with off-the-charts athleticism probably would have been a first round selection, but Diallo never received the promise he was looking for from an NBA team.

Diallo’s decision became a national story in the weeks leading up to the deadline. After an impressive showing at the draft combine, many expected him to become John Calipari’s first none-and-done NBA prospect. While many Wildcat fans were upset Diallo might leave Lexington without ever playing a game, John Calipari provided Diallo with the support and information needed to make the best decision. In the end, that decision was returning to Lexington and work toward being a lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft.

Projecting the lineup
With the Diallo decision made, John Calipari now likely has his roster set for next season. The Wildcats will be the youngest team in all of college basketball and arguably the most talented. Calipari will also enjoy his deepest roster since the 2014-15 squad known for platooning. The Wildcats are two-deep at every position with McDonald’s All-American caliber talent across the board.

In the backcourt, the Wildcats will feature Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Jemarl Baker. While Green and Diallo will likely get the starting nod at point guard and shooting guard, respectively, Gilgeous-Alexander will contribute significant minutes and both positions. Baker, known as a three-point specialist, will likely be utilized more sparingly when the Wildcats are in need of outside shooting.

The Wildcats are deepest and most talented at the wing position. With Kevin Knox and Jared Vanderbilt, the Wildcats will have more length on the wing since the days of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Both players are projected as lottery picks in next year’s draft.

On the interior, Calipari will likely rotate P.J. Washington, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Nick Richards depending on who is producing the most. All four are expected to play significant minutes for the Wildcats.

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