Hamidou Diallo returns to visit PSA!

A student new to Putnam Science Academy walked into a classroom on September 8 and remarked to his teacher, “The NBA player who went here…he’s down in the gym.” When asked how he looked, the student’s eyes widened and the smile grew over his face as he responded, “Like an NBA player!”

The early fall day was indeed a special day on the PSA campus, as alum and current member of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons Hamidou Diallo, returned to visit the school for the first time since he left for the University of Kentucky in 2016.

“It was awesome. It was an unbelievable day,” PSA basketball coach Tom Espinosa said. “There was a buzz around campus all day. It’s great to see him. It’s sad to say it’s been this long, but life is crazy. He went to Kentucky, he’s been in the NBA. It’s hard for guys to come back to prep schools. It’s easy when you go back home and you go to your high school. But to come back is very difficult. We couldn’t be happier that he made the trip, we’re just so appreciative. It’s great to see him.”

Diallo got to campus early and worked out in the gym before heading downtown for breakfast. He then went to both Putnam Middle School and Putnam Elementary School to help Espinosa excuse his kids from class, and take pictures with the teachers, principals, and classes, before walking the PSA buildings, and practicing with the Prep team. “It’s a blessing to be able to come back and see my old stomping grounds and just being able to reconnect with my old coaches and old friends…my old family, so to speak,” Diallo said. “

“Putnam Science has a special place in my heart. This is where everything was established for me. This is where I became the player that everybody sees today. The hard mornings, the hard nights, getting in the gym with Coach Josh (Scraba) and Espo. There’s nothing like it. During the moment, I hated it. But this gym, this town of Putnam, they’re just special places to be. I cherish those days that I was here.”

Diallo, who was inducted into PSA’s Athletics Hall of Fame this summer but could not attend the ceremony, played two-and-a-half seasons and was the all-time leading scorer when he left (he currently sits second on the list). He was a five-star recruit who brought PSA to the national stage and was the first former Mustang chosen in the NBA Draft when the Brooklyn Nets selected him in the 2nd round in 2018. He was traded to Oklahoma City, where he played for three years before being traded to the Pistons. He averaged 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals this past season, in his fifth season in the league. “I thank God every day for the situation that I’m in now and where I’ve been to put me in this situation,” the 24-year-old Diallo said. “I learned my work habits here. Waking up at 4:30, 5 in the morning and having to workout, then having to go to school, then having to do it all over again at night, and then having to wake up and do it again in the morning. It’s something that I still do to this day. The work doesn’t stop.”

“Most importantly, though, I became a man here. I could go on for days about how much I appreciate the town of Putnam and Coach Espo and Coach Josh. I’m just always thankful to have a place like this that took me in and helped me shape my life and helped me shape my family’s life.”

His message for the current Mustangs – and anyone else for that matter – was to not take anything for granted. “I think once you believe in yourself, you’re able to do anything in this world,” he said. “But I

made sure I put in the work to match my beliefs. You have to keep working and be passionate in your craft. Everything comes from working. Nothing happens overnight. And nothing is promised in this world either. You have to attack every day, and make sure that whatever your dream is in this world, make sure you’re attacking it and trying to get closer to it each and every day. Because nothing is promised. Life is not promised. The game of basketball is just a small piece of life. I thought basketball was everything when I was here. I was just a kid, just being a kid. I didn’t understand what I had at the tip of my hands. Building good habits, building discipline…those characteristics are going to stay with you for the rest of your life.”

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