SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – There was a reason the Big Blue Nation exuberated excitement when Hamidou Diallo announced his return to Kentucky for his freshman campaign. Diallo, who is expected to be a major contributor for the Wildcats, was selected to the Jerry West Award watch list, which recognizes the country’s best shooting guard.
Malik Monk was among the early favorites for the award last season. After averaging 19.8 points per game and claiming Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year honors, he became UK’s first-ever recipient of the award.
Diallo is one of 20 candidates on the preseason watch list for the West Award, which will be presented for the fourth consecutive season to the nation’s top shooting guard by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame announced its original list Tuesday, Oct. 17.
By mid-February, the watch list of 20 players will be narrowed to 10. In March, five finalists will be presented to the award’s namesake and the Hall of Fame selection committee. The winner of the 2018 Jerry West Award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in Los Angeles on April 6. Players do not have to be on the watch list to win the award until the five finalists are announced.
A 6-foot-5 explosive guard, Diallo was a top-10 prospect in the class of 2017 by many national pundits. Both 247 Sports and Scout rated him as the No. 1 overall shooting guard.
During his final high school season, Diallo led Putnam Science Academy to a 38-3 overall record and an appearance in the state semifinals. He is a two-time all-state honoree and averaged 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists during his senior campaign.
He has been a mainstay in USA Basketball and traveled to Egypt this summer with to the FIBA U19 World Cup under the direction of John Calipari. He averaged 10.9 points and 3.9 rebounds in 18.4 minutes a game for the United States during seven games. Diallo enrolled at Kentucky in January and spent the spring semester with the Cats becoming a vital practice player during their run to the Elite Eight.
In addition to Monk, other winners of the Jerry West Award include Buddy Hield of Oklahoma (2016) and D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State (2015).
The Jerry West Award is named after Jerry West, who attended West Virginia University and averaged 24.8 points and 13.3 rebounds per game in his three varsity seasons. He led his team to the NCAA championship game in 1959 and was named a consensus All-American in 1959 and 1960. In the summer of 1960, he was co-captain of the U.S. men’s basketball team and won an Olympic gold medal. As a professional player, West played 14 seasons in the NBA with the Lakers, making the All-NBA First Team 10 times. West won an NBA championship in 1972 and was named the NBA Finals MVP in 1969 despite his team not winning the championship. In 1996, he was named a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught