Hamidou Diallo passes on the NBA Draft to return to Kentucky; Wildcats are top-10

The last high-profile player to publicly decide whether he would return to college or stay in the NBA Draft was the only college player who has never played a college game.

Fortunately for UK fans, Kentucky freshman Hamidou Diallo has opted to return to Lexington and play next season with the Wildcats. The news came via CBS Sports' Gary Parrish on Wednesday night, all of 17 minutes before the 11:59 p.m. E.T. deadline.

Diallo's decision all but ensures Kentucky will be a preseason top 10 team, as the Wildcats will have six former five-star recruits enrolled. UK could be flawed but nonetheless will be a lot of fun to watch. John Calipari has annual turnover with his roster, but he's never lost as much production year over year as what he's in the midst of handling from 2016-17 to 2017-18. They will likely need a lot out of Diallo to ensure Kentucky takes home another conference title and competes for a Final Four. 

By choosing to return to Lexington, Diallo dodges becoming the rare none-and-done in the age of the NBA's age-minimum rule. Diallo's decision comes one year after Thon Maker opted out of his expected route to college and wound up being picked 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks after never playing a game in college hoops. Diallo wouldn't have sniffed the lottery this year, though, and reports are that no team gave him a guarantee that he would be selected in the first round. 

Now, Diallo has the chance to potentially lead Kentucky in scoring and at the very least vastly improve his stock and potentially cash in huge next season. If Kentucky is good and Diallo delivers while improving his shot selection, he'll almost certainly be a top-15 pick in 2017. He's got bounce, confidence and a passion to his game that will translate easily on television when you watch. 

What made the decision tough for the 18-year-old was his uncommon athleticism. He was arguably the most athletic prospect in this year's group of players declaring for the draft. At the combine earlier this month, Diallo's vertical topped out at 44.5 inches, one of the best measurements in the history of the modern combine.

Kentucky now enters next season with a lot of promise but a need to jell. With so many freshmen incoming, Diallo will practically be a veteran for the team even though he hasn't played a game. By enrolling in classes midway through last season, Diallo became familiar with the day-to-day operations of UK basketball and should be one of the must-watch players in all of the sport by the time the season kicks off in November. 

Here's a peek at what's coming. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his ninth season reporting on college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories