Former Our Savior New American star Cheick Diallo endured a frustrating freshman season at Kansas that caused his NBA Draft stock to plummet, but the New Orleans Pelicans obviously still believe in his potential upside. They traded the 39th and 40th overall picks to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round to move up to get the athletic power forward with the 33rd overall pick Thursday night at Barclays Center.
Diallo is the first graduate of the OSNA program in Centereach to be drafted by an NBA team. He took a shot at turning pro after being lightly used by Kansas coach Bill Self. Diallo averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in just 7.5 minutes per game for the Jayhawks and often was confined to the bench for entire games.
Eric Jaklitsch, who is the associate head coach at OSNA and a trusted adviser to Diallo, downplayed the notion of any disappointment, saying, “It’s a blessing to be going to the NBA. It’s awesome to be drafted.
“We felt it was time for him to go. He wanted to pursue the opportunity to play in the NBA. You can’t look back.”
No doubt, the Pelicans envision teaming Diallo in the frontcourt with All-Star center Anthony Davis to form one of the most athletic and defensive front lines in the NBA. “It shows they value him to trade up,” Jaklitsch said. “Once he gets the opportunity to develop and play with Davis, they will be formidable, two athletic shot-blockers who can run the floor. They will complement each other.”
After his prep career at OSNA, Diallo’s potential became obvious when he earned MVP honors in both the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic, which was played at Barclays Center just over a year ago. He’s not known for his offensive skills, but Diallo certainly displayed some offensive potential in the Jordan Brand game.
“It’s going to take him a couple of years to do it in the best league in the world, but he’s a hard worker,” Jaklitsch said. “He’s worked hard on his offense.”
Diallo’s chance to develop at Kansas was short-circuited when the NCAA Clearinghouse delayed approval of his eligibility, causing Diallo to miss the first five games of the Jayhawks’ season. “He got a late start and couldn’t practice,” Jaklitsch said. “They tried to get him in the rotation, but they settled on the veterans in January.”
As a second-round pick, nothing is guaranteed to Diallo, but the Pelicans’ vision of a Diallo-Davis combination defending the basket is a powerful incentive for them to be the ones to do what it takes to develop the OSNA star.