Diallo Displays Athleticism, Promise in Thunder Summer League Win

LAS VEGAS -- The burst is so obvious, the crowd at the Cox Pavilion on UNLV’s campus held their breath a bit whenever Hamidou Diallo had the ball with space to move. The energetic and bouncy rookie guard is one of many players the Thunder gave a test run to on Saturday afternoon, and is a player the team believes can develop some core skills to go with his outstanding athleticism.

In fact, some of that fine-tuning was evident in the Thunder’s 90-76 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 2 of the Thunder’s Summer League. Even with just one previous game under his belt, Diallo seemed to have learned from Friday’s game and found himself in better position on both ends of the floor, and better able to imbue his speed and leaping ability into the game itself.

“Finally getting to get out there and put on this jersey is a blessing. It’s a blessing not many people get to have,” said Diallo. “I’m just honored and blessed and happy that Oklahoma gave me the opportunity.”

Offensively, Diallo broke through with an impressive performance that included 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 8 rebounds. He made a pair of made three-pointers with solid shooting form, hit a long two-point jumper and likely the play of the game, a vicious baseline drive that culminated in a two-handed flush. Diallo isn’t heralded as a scorer coming out of college, but as a 19-year old he obviously still has plenty of room to grow.

“Usually young guys they think of all these things and it stops their game a little bit as far as energy level. His energy level is through the roof,” said Thunder Assistant Coach Vin Bhavanani, who made his head coaching debut by leading the Thunder at Saturday’s game. “It happened early. It’s happening with drives and cuts and teammates are recognizing that.”

The Thunder staff will continue to work on the finer points of positioning, attacking off the dribble and sharpening the shooting stroke, but on Saturday Diallo sprinted to the corner and spot up for jumpers and made progress in terms of his control on the floor.

“There’s still a lot of reps and a lot of work to be done. The work is being put in,” Diallo noted. “Now it’s all about implementing it into the game.”

On defense, the limber, chiseled second round pick wasn’t afraid to put his nose into the play and come away with tough defensive rebounds and to jump into lanes and come away with loose balls. That competitiveness and spirit is part of the reason why the Thunder made a draft night trade to snag Diallo. The trade itself couldn’t be official until Friday, so this weekend has been a bit of a crash course for the Thunder newcomer, who left Kentucky after his redshirt freshman year.

“(Diallo) is able to recover into plays because he’s so gifted athletically,” Oklahoma City Blue Head Coach Mark Daigneault said. “He was playing with a motor and he wasn’t really thinking out there. Now it’s a matter of catching him up on what we’re doing and take it from there.”

“I like to get after it on both sides of the court and I like to bring a different level of energy to the game,” Diallo added. “Whatever coach needs me to do, whatever the assignment is, I’m ready to get out there and stick my nose in it.”

Diallo started all 37 games as a Wildcat in 2017-18, and averaged 10.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 24.8 minutes per game. The native of Queens, N.Y. represented the US in 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup and 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. His pedigree made him an elite prospect early, but it’s what he learned during his time in college that helped him mature into a player who is ready to contribute to the Thunder organization both on and off the court.

“I learned how to conquer myself,” Diallo said poetically. “Conquering yourself just means that when things aren’t going good, when you had a bad game, when you had a bad practice, how are you going to bounce back and help your team win?”

Summer League: Diallo Shines in Win