PYONGYANG, North Korea – Ending his unexpected round of basketball diplomacy in North Korea on Friday, ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman called leader Kim Jong Un an “awesome guy” and said his father and grandfather were “great leaders” — an assessment that got short shrift from the U.S. government.

Rodman, the highest-profile American to meet Kim since he inherited power from father Kim Jong Il in 2011, watched a basketball game with the authoritarian leader Thursday and later drank and dined on sushi with him.

At Pyongyang’s Sunan airport on his way to Beijing, Rodman said it was “amazing” that the North Koreans were “so honest.” He added that Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder, “were great leaders.”

“He’s proud, his country likes him — not like him, love him, love him,” Rodman said of Kim Jong Un. “Guess what, I love him. The guy’s really awesome.”

The State Department on Friday distanced itself from Rodman’s visit and his praise for Kim, saying he doesn’t represent the United States.

“The North Korean regime has a horrific human rights record, quite possibly the worst human rights situation in the world,” spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. He accused the regime of depriving its people of food, shelter, water and maintaining prison gulags.

Ventrell also took aim at Pyongyang for its grand treatment of the visiting basketball stars.