Udoka Azubuike

Draft Decisions: Azubuike, Hands, Bowman, Reed

Kansas big man Udoka Azubuike is the latest early entrant to pull out the 2018 NBA draft, a source tells ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (Twitter link). Azubuike, the No. 77 prospect on Jonathan Givony’s big board at ESPN.com, had entered the draft without hiring an agent, but now appears poised to rejoin the Jayhawks for his junior year.

As a sophomore, Azubuike enjoyed a breakout season in 2017/18, averaging 13.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 1.7 BPG in just 23.6 minutes per contest for Kansas. The seven-footer will have another opportunity to declare as an early entrant in 2019.

Here are more of the latest draft decisions from early entrants in advance of today’s deadline:

  • Jaylen Hands, who ranks one spot behind Azubuike on Givony’s top-100 list, is also headed back to school, a source tells Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports (Twitter link). The UCLA guard will be a sophomore in 2018/19.
  • Boston College sophomore guard Ky Bowman will return to school for his junior year after testing the draft waters, according to Rothstein. Bowman had a big sophomore season for the Eagles, putting up 17.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 4.7 APG, but wasn’t considered likely to be drafted.
  • The Clemson basketball program got some good news today, according to Rothstein, who tweets that Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell are both withdrawing from the draft after testing the waters. Reed and Mitchell were the Tigers’ first- and fourth-leading scorers in 2017/18.
  • DePaul’s top scorer Max Strus will return to school for his senior year, the program announced today in a press release. “I’m glad I was able to go through the process and receive feedback from NBA teams,” Strus said in a statement. “Now we can look forward to my senior season at DePaul and we’re already working and getting better this spring as a team.”
  • Junior guard Tyler Hall is withdrawing from the draft and returning to Montana State, per ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (Twitter link). Hall averaged 17.5 PPG on .407/.372/.907 shooting in 2017/18.

Draft Notes: Ponds, Lakers, Grizzlies, Cavaliers

The NBA draft lottery is still a week away, but teams have already started bringing in prospects for pre-draft workouts. Those workouts are especially important for early entrants who are still testing the waters, since they’re a great opportunity for those players to find out where they stand with NBA teams.

One of those players is St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds, who entered the draft process this spring as a sophomore, and will have until May 30 to decide whether to withdraw and return to school for his junior year. According to Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (Twitter link), Ponds has already worked out for the Celtics, and has auditions for the Nets and Cavaliers lined up this weekend.

Here are a few more draft-related updates, with a focus on workouts:

Draft Notes: Combine, Franks, Gates, Vick, Wiggins

Earlier today, we passed along the list of the 69 players expected to attend this month’s NBA draft combine in Chicago, as reported by Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Jonathan Givony takes a closer look at that list, noting that it’s often predictive of which players will be drafted in June.

As Givony notes, Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike, Georgia’s Yante Maten, UCLA’s Jaylen Hands, and Maryland’s Bruno Fernando all received invites to the combine despite not being on ESPN’s list of this year’s top 100 prospects. That’s an indication that NBA teams are more bullish on those players than Givony, who says they’ll be added to his top 100 in the next update.

Meanwhile, Florida’s Jalen Hudson, St. John’s Shamorie Ponds, and Purdue’s Carsen Edwards are among the underclassmen in Givony’s top 100 who weren’t invited to the combine. Those players, along with a few other top-100 prospects, haven’t hired agents and can still withdraw their names from this year’s pool — not receiving an invite to the combine probably means they’re more likely to return to school.

Let’s round up a few more draft-related notes…

  • Following up on his analysis of the combine invitee list, Givony notes in a tweet that Robert Franks (Washington State), Kaiser Gates (Xavier), and Lagerald Vick (Kansas) are among the early entrants who have now hired agents and won’t be returning to school.
  • One intriguing combine invitee is Mitchell Robinson, who didn’t play college ball after being named a McDonald’s All-American. According to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter link), Robinson has signed with veteran NBA agent Raymond Brothers, who says his new client is “easily a top-three talent.”
  • Junior forward Demajeo Wiggins, who averaged a double-double in 2017/18 (13.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG), will be returning to Bowling Green for his senior season, he tells ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (Twitter link). Wiggins had been testing the draft waters without an agent.
  • Pre-draft team workouts are underway, with the Lakers bringing in six prospects for a look on Thursday. According to Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet (Twitter link), Sedrick Barefield (Utah), Hayden Dalton (Wyoming), Marcus Foster (Creighton), Deng Adel (Louisville), Anas Mahmoud (Louisville), and Ethan Happ (Wisconsin) earned a look from the Lakers.

Draft Updates: Sedekerskis, Kulboka, Azubuike

A pair of international prospects that rank within the top 100 on Jonathan Givony’s big board at ESPN.com have declared for the 2018 NBA draft, Givony reports.

Tadas Sedekerskis, a 6’10” Lithuanian combo forward, is one of those two prospects declaring for the draft as an early entrants, according to Givony, who refers to Sedekerskis as “one of the most decorated players of his generation in Europe.” Although his rights were acquired by Spanish powerhouse Baskonia, Sedekerskis has been on loan in his native Lithuania for Nevezis this season. The 1998-born forward is the No. 86 prospect on Givony’s big board.

Meanwhile, Givony’s 76th-ranked prospect, Lithuanian wing Arnoldas Kulboka, is also entering the 2018 draft (Twitter link). Kulboka, a 1998-born forward who entered the draft a year ago but ultimately withdrew from consideration, is currently averaging 8.3 PPG for Italian team Capo D’Orlando.

Here are a few more draft-related notes:

  • Kansas sophomore center Udoka Azubuike has decided to test the 2018 NBA draft waters without hiring an agent, the school announced today in a press release. “I’m going to wait and see where I stand among other bigs out there,” Azubuike said in a statement. “I appreciate everyone’s support, but I’m not saying goodbye. I’m saying I want to find out. Like many other players, I’m curious.” The seven-footer enjoyed a breakout sophomore season in 2017/18, averaging 13.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.7 BPG, and a .770 FG% for the Jayhawks.
  • Over at ESPN.com, Jonathan Givony has put out an early mock draft for 2019 (Insider link). Among the players picked: Azubuike, who goes 48th overall.
  • Kent State guard Jaylin Walker is also entering the 2018 draft without hiring an agent, per a press release. In his junior year, Walker averaged 16.6 PPG, but struggled a little with his efficiency (.380 FG%, .328 3PT%).
  • Marshall junior forward Ajdin Penava has elected to forgo his senior year and go pro, according to an announcement from the school. After posting modest numbers in his first two years at Marshall, Penava set career highs in PPG (15.6), RPG (8.5), BPG (3.9), and several other categories in 2017/18.