Q&A: Hamidou Diallo says return to Kentucky 'a really good decision'

Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor
Cats Illustrated

After using a "redshirt semester" with Cats last season and bypassing a chance to enter the NBA Draft, expectations are high for athletic wing Hamidou Diallo

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Cats Illustrated File Photo

On his 11th-hour decision to return to Kentucky and what that day was like...

"That day, I had a workout with the Knicks. After the workout, I would say it was about 7 (o'clock) and I probably got home around 8-ish. That's the reason why it took so long. Some people thought that I had already made a decision but that wasn't the case. I made the decision at about 11:45 after continuous discussions with Coach Cal, coach Kenny Payne, the family, and friends - just getting as much feedback as possible, trying to figure out what the best decision was for me. It came down to just feeling like coming back to school was the best decision.

On reports that claimed to know his decision earlier that night...

"No way because I didn't even know. (Laughs) Somebody made a post or tweet that I was coming back, and that was 100-percent false (at the time). I felt like I was changing my mind back and forth, back and forth... It was truly 50/50 the whole time. One day I'd be going, the next day I was staying.

"I had a couple of great workouts with some teams that were really sold on me and really high on me, but it was always about staying level-headed and not trying to rush anything.

"I just needed to sit down and take a long look at the situation, and see how I would benefit from this situation. And it needed to be a decision I could live with the entire year no matter what ups and downs I might have... I'm really happy with my decision and can't wait for the season to start."

On whether that was as hard as picking a school to begin with...

"Oh, definitely. Much more at stake, and it could be your last go-around. Picking a school, you really don't lose anything. But leaving for the NBA, you lose your eligibility, you can't just go back, things like that. It's definitely a hard decision, which is why it took longer. It was stressful."

On whether he felt any of the social media pressure suggesting he owed it to UK to return...

"I wouldn't say 'owed.' I wouldn't say I was really thinking about that. That's a thing that kids dream about, so saying that I owed Kentucky wouldn't really make any sense to me. I was just chasing my dream. If I had to start all over, I would do it the same way.

"As for the criticism, that's just kind of something that comes with being successful. Being a professional or a college basketball player, people are going to come at you different ways. You just gotta stay level-headed and don't entertain it.

"I'm just happy I'm back. I made a really good decision for myself."

On what the most valuable piece of feedback he heard from the pros...

"They were all honest about what I needed to get better at. I take criticism pretty well."

On what he's added to his game since making the decision to return to UK...

"First off, I would say leading. Then becoming a two-way player and just being more consistent - being a consistent shooter, a consistent defender, not taking plays off - little things like that."

On suddenly being a "veteran" on one of the youngest UK teams of all time ...

(Laughs) "Yeah. I mean, it's wild, but it's great at the same time. Maybe it could help us that I decided to come early and got a couple of months under my belt because we have more than just one or two people who were actually out there last year. I feel like knowing the process and what's going on will help me in a leadership role."

On how hard it was to watch from the bench at times last season...

(Nods) "It was. But I learned a lot. The biggest thing for me was just making sure that everybody on the team is on the same page and fighting for each other. We're always just Kentucky versus the other team. We're not fighting each other."

On what game he really wanted to put himself into...

"Every game, really. After I finally got here, I just really wanted to play in all of them. That's part of being a competitor."


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