You would have thought The Beatles were coming to town with all the rock-concert-like pomp and circumstance surrounding Cheick Diallo’s debut with the Kansas Jayhawks Tuesday night.
Diallo missed the first five games of the season as the slow-as-a-snail NCAA plodded along in its investigation of whether or not he should be cleared to play.
Once the light went on and the NCAA finally deemed him cleared, Diallo looked forward to his first game against Loyola of Maryland, not to be confused with Loyola of Marymount during its halcyon days of 140 and 150 points a game.
Just as I expected, Diallo was uber-hyper, so much so he played 3 minutes in the first half that could only be described kindly as forgettable. He committed two fouls, fumbled nearly every ball he touched and was running around like he was in a fog with nary a clue of how to play the game.
But he took a deep exhale at halftime and returned with a vengeance. He finished with 13 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots and clearly produced the game’s highlight with an end-to-end steal and dunk, posturing for the cameras while in mid-flight.
Loyola was the perfect team for Diallo to make his debut against. It probably will be the weakest team KU plays all year and was severely lacking in height. He didn’t encounter much resistance, not like what he will when the Jayhawks host No. 1 Kentucky next month.
Make no mistake, the addition of Diallo certainly helps the Jayhawks. He’s no Patrick Ewing or Dikembe Mutombo, two players he’s often compared to. He’s as raw as a frozen steak offensively, with most of his points expected to come on dunks. Defensively, he tries to block everything in his area code and could find himself out of position at times trying to make the spectacular play.
But he gives the Jayhawks a high motor, the polar opposite of Perry Ellis. You put Diallo’s energy in Ellis and he would be a scary player.
You have to wonder how Bill Self is going to divide the minutes. He now has Ellis, Diallo, Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson as his big-man rotation. You know Ellis and Traylor, both seniors, are going to get big minutes. Diallo wasn't brought in just to be a fan favorite, while Lucas and Mickelson probably are going to suffer the most. There's a lot of coaches that would like to have Self's problem, but believe me, somebody is going to get their feelings hurt.
Sometimes you wonder if Self has too many players. Right now he's trying to find time for 11 players and remember, Brannen Greene will skulk out of the doghouse after two more games. Even with all the players, the Jayhawks still have some flaws. The addition of Diallo, however, gives them the shot-blocker they didn't have before.
KU may be the deepest team in the country. In time, it may be the best.