The college career spanned only 202 minutes on the hardwood, a nondescript spell during which a high-profile Division I basketball recruit spent the majority of his time on the Kansas bench.
But the next level opts for future projections rather than past affairs. And while Cheick Diallo may have lacked on-court time at KU, he possesses upside. Or at least the New Orleans Pelicans deemed that much.
The Los Angeles Clippers selected Diallo with the No. 33 pick of the NBA Draft on Thursday night, though a trade sent his rights to New Orleans.
After his early second-round selection, Diallo, a 6-9 power forward, strolled across the stage wearing a white suit and a red bow tie at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I was surprised Cheick didn’t go in the first round based on the preliminary reports I got, but I’m not shocked,” Kansas coach Bill Self said in a phone interview after the draft. “I know it’s disappointing for a guy when you don’t go as high or get drafted in the spot you would like, but I think he’s in a good situation.”
Diallo averaged just 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in his only season at Kansas. He was the lone Jayhawk to come off the board Thursday.
Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene also departed Lawrence with NCAA eligibility remaining to instead enter the NBA Draft, but they were not picked. Neither was former Kansas forward Perry Ellis.
“I’m disappointed for them,” Self said. “I’m disappointed, but I’m not discouraged at all because I really feel like a lot of times if you’re not picked early in the second round, you’re better off going undrafted. I know that sounds weird, but now they can pick and choose what franchise they go to.”
Among the Kansas draft hopefuls, Diallo provided the least collegiate impact of the bunch after his KU career was delayed until December by an inquiry into his NCAA eligibility.
His NBA career could be delayed, too, but for entirely different reasoning. Diallo is seen as a long-term project rather than a quick fix, with an offensive repertoire in need of more polishing.
But the NBA Draft is an opportunity to eye the long-term future — with combine metrics as important as any points, rebounds or assists statistics. Before the Philadelphia 76ers took LSU forward Ben Simmons with the top overall pick, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas cracked a joke Thursday that viewers of the draft were taking a swig of alcoholic beverages each time he used the word “wingspan.”
That term tops the strengths of Diallo, whose wingspan of 7 feet, 4 1/2 inches rated second longest among those measured during the combine.
“He just plays his tail off all the time — he blocks shots around the rim, he offensive rebounds,” Bilas said on the telecast. “He played very well at the combine. ... He’s just a pain in the rear end to block out on every possession because he plays so hard.”
After his name was called, Diallo departed the rafters inside the Barclays Center and walked onto the stage. He opened the inside of his white suit coat and flashed it toward the crowd, showing the African continent with his home Mali outlined.
“He really wants to be good. His effort level is usually very, very high,” Self said. “I really believe they like the fact that he competed as much as anything else.”