I have a gut feeling KU basketball fans have seen the last of Cheick Diallo, who is going to be the latest Kansas comet flashing like a blink of an eye through the prairie sky.
Remember the “Free Diallo” signs when he was sitting out the early part of the season when the meandering NCAA was trying to figure out whether his classes back in the sixth grade or whatever were on the up-and-up? Remember how KU fans thought the lanky big man would be the missing piece to the puzzle, the reincarnation of Joel Embiid, who played one year at KU, was drafted No. 3 by the Philadelphia 76ers, but has never played a game because of injuries over the past two years? Remember when KU fans went crazy when he finally got into a game and some thought he would debut with 20 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocks?
Then reality set in.
As it turned out, Diallo was woefully ill-prepared for the college game. Even though he was a McDonald’s All-American and a Top 10 national recruit, he lacked the fundamentals to be a factor. While he did see time early before the Big 12 season got into full swing, he wound up languishing on the bench and put up scrub numbers. You'd never known he was on the team by watching the last three games of the NCAA Tournament as the only chants he could have heard would have been "DNP, DNP, DNP" and not "MVP, MVP, MVP."
There were, admittedly, some flashes. He was Dikembe Mutombo-like in his style, trying to block any shot that moved. Offensively, he seemed more content with floating on the perimeter and shooting jumpers rather than mixing it up on the inside except for the occasional lob dunk.
All-in-all, it was pretty much a wasted year, except for going up against the likes of Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Carlton Bragg every day in practice.
Ellis, Traylor and Mickelson are now gone. All signs point toward Diallo being a major contributor next year.
But it’s not going to happen, in my opinion.
Diallo has declared for the NBA draft, but not signed with an agent. With new rules in place, that means he can get an evaluation where he stands in the draft which by all reports right now have him in the mid 30s — or the second round.
Only first-rounders are guaranteed money. If Diallo does indeed fall to the second round, he could wind up losing millions. It’s not to say he won’t make a team if drafted in the second round, but if the NBA scouts have any semblance of eyesight, they'll see the guy is a project. He would become a D-League drifter, like some other Jayhawks have. Anyone seen Josh Selby lately?
It’s all about whether Diallo wants experience at KU and still has to go to class or beat the minor-league bushes, where crowds can be counted on both hands and taking off both shoes. There’s not 16,300 roaring your name every time you step on the floor. You’re at the lowest of low and there's a lot of guys who can run and jump and dunk like Diallo. He’d just be another guy in the D-League if he comes out now.
If he stays a year or two more at KU, his stock would rise. He’d be a first-round lock, maybe a Top 10 player. In this era of the NBA, there’s not a lot of 6-9 and 6-10 guys who can motor up and down the floor like Diallo. He’s a greyhound in a giraffe’s body. He could develop into a menacing NBA player.
If he wants to get paid far less than he would by waiting, more power to him. If he feels he has to take the chance to help his family with a huge risk, great. I think he’s going to take that route, which is a loss for him and KU fans. Let's hope the people around him steer him in the right direction.