Expect the expected – Jayson Tatum is headed to the NBA draft.
Since Duke’s stunning NCAA tournament loss to South Carolina late Sunday night, the freshman star from St. Louis went through his final meetings with the Blue Devils coaches and, on Wednesday, announced he’s following through on his plan to stay one season before turning professional.
“There was no reason to beat around the bush and keep it lingering,” Justin Tatum, Jayson’s dad, said Wednesday in a phone interview. “It was something we knew all season long.”
So Tatum, the rangy 6-8, 225-pound small forward, will hire an agent and enter this June’s NBA draft. He’s the 10th Duke freshman since 1999 to declare early for the draft and he’s projected to be Duke’s ninth lottery pick from that group.
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“I’m excited to take the next step in pursuing my lifelong dream of playing basketball at the highest level possible,” Jayson Tatum said in statement.
Tatum averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds, second among ACC freshmen in both categories, after missing the first eight games of the season to a sprained foot.
“I have absolutely loved coaching Jayson Tatum,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in a statement. “His skill and work ethic will make him a star in the NBA. Whichever team selects him will be getting a humble, thoughtful and talented young man whom we are proud to call a member of the Duke Basketball brotherhood.”
Duke started the season as the nation’s No. 1 team and the favorite to win the NCAA tournament. But a season full of injuries derailed things and Duke (28-9) didn’t fulfill those expectations.
The Blue Devils did win its 20th ACC tournament title earlier this month New York when Tatum averaged 22 points in Duke’s four wins in four days. But a second-round exit from the NCAA tournament on Sunday against South Carolina abruptly ended the season and Tatum’s college career.
Justin Tatum said his son, who turned 19 earlier this month, learned plenty during his season at Duke. The tough times he and the team went through will only help him in the NBA.
“He will take a lot on how to fight through adversity to the next level,” Justin Tatum said.
Tatum set a Duke single-season record with six games with at least 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. He also had 26 double-figure scoring games, including seven 20-point games.
Because of that, he’s expected to give Duke a first-round draft pick for the seventh consecutive year. Draftexpress.com has Tatum as the No. 4 prospect in the NBA draft, which will be held on June 22. NBA.com lists Tatum at No. 6 overall.
Justin Tatum said his son is ready for the NBA thanks to Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils.
“Duke served its purpose,” Justin Tatum said, “of preparing him mentally and physically for his goal, which was to go to the NBA.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan