The Pistons team barely arrived in Paris for the NBA Paris Game 2023, Hamidou Diallo rather than sightseeing, he chose to spend time with the youth. The Detroit back began the first Parisian stay of his life at Paris Saint-Germain’s training center Camp des Loges.
Diallo, 24, visited the youngsters at PSG’s training center to share his experience with them, answer their questions and get a first-hand look at the methods and activities of the most prolific academy in Ligue 1 over the past decade. .
If the vast majority of Parisian pros didn’t know Hamidou Diallo, their eyes still lit up when they realized they had a guy who was able to win the All-Star Game Slam Dunk Contest by leaping over Shaquille O. Neal and maintain his place in the highest league of world basketball.
As the Paris Game against Chicago approaches, we had a chance to chat with Hamidu, specifically about his connection to Africa and New York DNA, but also Killian Hayes or Victor Vembanyama.
BasketSession: The first thing you did when you arrived in Paris was to come and see the young athletes and spend time with them.
Hamidou Diallo: It’s important for me to come here to see the young players because that’s how it started for me at the academy in the US. These are the young stars and this is where the real work is done. It’s great to be there and connect with them. What I saw opened my eyes. There are so many talented kids chasing their dreams that… I don’t play football, I’ve always played basketball, but I like to watch. Messi is my favorite player. I know that PSG has been a successful club for many years and has produced many talented players. So I wanted to see what it looked like from the inside.
You yourself were a hot prospect when you were younger. How do you handle the pressure that goes with it?
Hamidou Diallo: This was not something I planned. I became a 5-star prospect late in training. So when I started getting media attention, I knew it was because I worked hard. I couldn’t really be distracted, I had to keep going. When you become a 5-star prospect, it’s simply a sign that you need to step up your work intensity. Because then all eyes are on you.
Speaking of prospects, we imagine you’ve heard of Victor Vembanyama. What do you think about him?
I saw a lot of videos about him, a lot of highlights. Most of these things are amazing. There is a lot of attention and hype surrounding it. Some people say he is the greatest prospect of all time. I think he is already a great player. He’s been playing for a long time and I can’t wait for him to come to the NBA. I’m not going to say that we could play together, it would almost be cheating (laughs). We’ll see, it’s a possibility anyway!
I draw my confidence from New York. When you grow up there, you will definitely have confidence, a certain style and a different mentality. I think that’s the case for everyone out there really.
Most of the young people you see in PSG’s training center are of African origin like you, with family from Guinea. How important are your roots to you? I know you went to Guinea in 2021 and your father came back to live there…
Yes exactly. Connecting with the roots is important to me. This is who I am and I want the world to know it. It’s great to see players from Africa making their dreams come true in a city like Paris. That is why training centers are important. They give a chance to young people who don’t have all the opportunities to succeed. We are trying to build more things in Africa so that Africans are not forgotten. There are many talents in this continent, be it in sports or business… It is a country of opportunities where it is possible to develop projects. We just have to come together. Once that happens, I feel the sky will be the limit. Africa can be as strong as it can be.
You grew up in New York. What always makes players from this part of the country stand out, and what part of your game do you consider 100% New York?
Hamidou Diallo: I draw my confidence from New York. When you grow up there, you will definitely have confidence, a certain style and a different mentality. I think that’s the case for everyone out there really. There’s so much basketball-wise, you can do so many different things… New Yorkers are tougher than average because of the nature of this city, the lifestyle they know there. Everything moves very fast in New York (snaps his fingers several times). People don’t have time to worry about other people’s mistakes. Everyone is always busy and trying to achieve their goal. As a basketball player, you can easily be forgotten when you play there. That’s why most of the New York players have such a desire to prove themselves and such a sense of urgency. I miss New York all the time. It is the best city in the world for me!
Shain’s game speaks for itself. Nothing was given to him, he went to buy everything he did today. If he continues like this, he can become one of the best players in the world.
This is only the second official NBA game in history in Paris, how does it feel to be there?
Hamidou Diallo: It’s great to come to another country and play for a different crowd than usual. The atmosphere and location also changes. Playing in Paris is a blessing. Many people dream about it, and for us it is a reality.
Do you speak a little French?
Hamidou Diallo: I used to speak a little French, but over time I lost most of what I knew. On the other hand, my father, mother and sisters also speak French.
We imagine Killian Hayes is excited as the event approaches.
Hamidou Diallo: Killian is very excited to come to play in France and Paris. He did not return for some time. Being able to play in front of his family and friends is great, and he rubs his hands at the thought.
At Kentucky, you played with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who became an NBA staple and All-Star. Did you always know he would become the player he is today?
Hamidou Diallo: Oh, you might say, he’s an All-Star now (laughs)! I always knew Shain would be a great player because he was a hard worker. He is like that. When you can make it in the NBA, you can achieve any goal. Once he got the chance to show it, he never looked back. His game speaks for itself. Nothing was given to him, he went to buy everything he did today. If he continues like this, I think he can become one of the best players in the world. Undoubtedly.