Kansas Jayhawks freshman forward Cheick Diallo never lived up to the lofty expectations that surrounded him when he arrived on campus as a 5-star recruit, per 247Sports’ composite rankings. However, that won't stop him from declaring for the 2016 NBA draft.
Diallo immediately turned heads before his college career when he won the MVP awards in the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. However, he played a cursory role at best for a Kansas team that added its 12th consecutive regular-season Big 12 title this season and was nowhere near the surefire superstar so many envisioned.
Here is a look at his numbers following the regular season and entering the Big 12 tournament:
Part of the issue for Diallo was the fact he was behind schedule from the opening game. Eligibility concerns forced him to miss the Jayhawks’ first five contests, which robbed him of the chance to establish himself in the rotation against winnable opponents.
He did flash his overwhelming potential in his first game on Dec. 1 against Loyola Maryland with 13 points and six rebounds, but he only scored in double figures one more time throughout the regular season. He also struggled to see playing time behind veterans such as Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson.
Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports captured the up-and-down nature of life with Diallo following Kansas’ 86-67 loss to Oklahoma State on Jan. 19:
Diallo showed occasional glimpses of promise during third-ranked Kansas' head-scratching 86-67 loss at previously struggling Oklahoma State, but the 6-foot-9 freshman also looked lost on numerous possessions as well. He finished with four points and two rebounds in 13 minutes, often displaying the athleticism and activity that make him an NBA prospect but not the grasp of Kansas' system he needs to earn more than sporadic minutes.
In the best-case scenario for Diallo, NBA scouts will see those “occasional glimpses of promise” and take a chance on the youngster. Perhaps a change of scenery or a professional system will help him tap into his potential at the next level.
He does bring solid athleticism to the table at 6’9”, and he has the leaping ability and height to be a dynamic rebounder. What’s more, he demonstrated a high motor and notable overall effort level at times this season, which helped him run the floor and cover ground as an interior defender.
One NBA scout at least recognized the makings of an NBA player, per C.J. Moore of Bleacher Report: “He's a hard-working great kid that is very raw offensively and it's going to take some time to develop, but he has the prototypical NBA size and athleticism and flexibility that you like in the new NBA.”
Between his overall quickness for his size and the length he adds on the floor, Diallo can eventually be a defensive force in the NBA. He also has the potential to be a shot-blocker and rebounder on both ends, and DraftExpress saw him as a borderline first-rounder as the No. 31 pick in its mock draft on March 7.
From a pure potential standpoint, Diallo has the talent to be a contributor in the professional ranks. He just needs to find a way to consistently unleash that talent to justify his decision to forego his sophomore season at Kansas and enter the draft.