FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hamidou Diallo’s leaping ability can be watched on YouTube and Rivals.com.
The strength of the 6-foot-6, 205-pound Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy star can be seen as he muscles through fouls to hit shots.
The guard’s range was on display throughout the City of Palms Classic.
The 18-year-old’s maturity also came through as he spoke about whether to attend college or forgo it and try to make the jump straight to the NBA.
Because the New York native plays at a prep school, Diallo is eligible for the NBA Draft. He is rated by most analysts to be among top 10-12 players in the country, regardless of position.
“(Going pro) definitely is an option, but my focus is on getting better,” Diallo said. “(Recruiting has) been a tough experience and has its ups and downs. But I’m also blessed to have a lot of schools recruiting me who are at a high level.”
If he chooses to go to college his final six choices are Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Indiana. As his coach Tom Espinosa shared, there’s a 99.9 percent chance Diallo will go to college next year.
After battling foul trouble and finishing with 13 points, four turnovers, one rebound and one steal in 17 minutes, 35 seconds Sunday as Putnam Science held off St. Anthony of Texas 60-59 in a Signature Series semifinal, the question about whether his play is consistent enough to turn pro remains.
In the semifinal, Diallo had to watch the last 2:11 from the bench after fouling out.
Espinosa said unlike last year, Diallo has done a better job of staying out of foul trouble.
“But he’s gotta be mentally tougher when things continue to go south,” Espinosa said. “You have to fight and play through it on every play.”
Espinosa said Diallo does a little bit of everything for the team. His right elbow – bothered by an injury earlier in the season – is better now.
“But he continues to grow on and off the court,” Espinosa said. “As he goes, we go. We expect big things from him.
“I think we can get him to put more time in the weight room and on the court. Actions do speak louder than words. He has gotten better and don’t get me wrong, he has put in the time. But that’s my job, to push Hammy and push these other kids to reach their full potential. Hammy hasn’t reached his full potential. He can get better, his skills can get better. He’s special but there’s a lot of 6-5, 6-6 guys who can shoot.”
Diallo sees himself as a leader and a two-way player, one who focuses on defense as well as offense.
Hoop Scoop’s Clark Francis, who has covered high school basketball for more than 30 years, said while he ranks him as his No. 1 fifth-year player, he’s top 10, not top five, in his list of the country’s top seniors.
“I think he needs to go to college for a year. That would help confidence, give him more consistency, help his outside shooting. He can knock down the 3 but he doesn’t do it enough. He also needs to refine his skills and mature.”
Diallo noted teams and players try different things when going against him and his teammates. Some play zone, some try to get physical with him and body him.
“I feel I can get to the basket any time I want,” he said. “When we play our best, no team can stop us.
“But you also have to adjust to the style of play and get the W.”