By LARRY VAUGHT
Some questioned when Hamidou Diallo left Kentucky after his freshman season for the NBA, especially when he was only a second-round pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Yet in his rookie season he shot 45 percent from the field. However, just like when he was at UK, he struggled with 3-point shooting and made just 17 percent of his treys — a mark that has to improve to prolong his professional career even if he is so athletic that he won the NBA Slam Dunk Championship.
“I’m just trying to go out there and be the player that I know I am, try to get my teammates involved and try to be a leader as much as possible,” Diallo told Nick Gallo of NBA.com after a summer league game in Las Vegas.
What Diallo did exceptionally well for a rookie was play defense and create chaos that often led to transition points just like he did for the Wildcats.
Diallo obviously knows defense can help him stay in the league.
“I’m just trying to be the best defender that I can be. I know that’s going to be a big, huge role for me coming into this year and that’s a big emphasis that me and coach (Billy Donovan) have talked about multiple times,” Diallo told Gallo.
“I’m just trying to go out there and be the best defender that I can be, try to be in coverages and try to sniff out things and try to learn the game as I’m doing all of that as well.”