Anunoby, 3 Indiana teammates declare for NBA draft
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) – New Indiana coach Archie Miller may face a more daunting first season than even he expected.
Four underclassmen, all potential starters next season, announced on Tuesday they will enter this year’s NBA draft.
OG Anunoby, who missed the final two months of last season with an injured knee, will hire an agent and will not return for his junior season. He is the only Indiana player expected to be a first-round pick.
Junior guards James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson and sophomore center Thomas Bryant do not intend to sign with agents, making them eligible to withdraw from the draft for a possible return to school.
The moves come less than two weeks after Miller left Dayton to replace the fired Tom Crean, who recruited all four players who hope to be on NBA rosters next season.
“These four young men all have unique talents and we support them in their decisions,” Miller said in a statement issued by the athletic department. “We congratulate OG and hope that James, Robert and Thomas can benefit from this and make the best decision that will have a lifelong impact.”
College players can only seek advice from NBA scouts by actually declaring for the draft. Dozens do, and many actually wind up going back to school.
Anunoby, Blackmon and Bryant considered leaving last year after Indiana won the Big Ten title and made the Sweet 16, but all three eventually returned to campus.
It’s unclear which way Blackmon, Bryant and Johnson are leaning after solid seasons in 2016-17.
For Anunoby, it was an easier choice. He emerged on scouts’ radars as a surprising defensive star in 2015-16 and seemed headed toward another big season before hurting his ankle against North Carolina and getting a season-ending knee injury Jan. 18 at Penn State.
He scored 11.1 points and grabbed 5.4 rebounds in 16 games with Indiana last season.
“I have enjoyed my time at Indiana and after thinking this over with my family, I believe this is the best decision for me personally,” Anunoby said. “I will always be grateful to coach Crean, his staff, and especially my teammates for two of the best years of my life.”
Blackmon averaged 17.0 points, led the Big Ten in 3-pointers made per game (3.0) and was a third-team all-conference selection in 2016-17 after missing the second half of the previous season because of knee surgery. He is one of 50 Indiana players to top the 1,000-point mark and was a finalist for this year’s Jerry West Award.
Last season, Bryant averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds, was fifth in the Big Ten in blocks (52) and was named to the conference’s all-defensive team for the second time. He holds the school’s career record for field goal percentage (59.2).
“I’m going to put all my energy in getting the most out of this opportunity and see what the best decision will be for my future,” he said. “I love IU and my teammates, but having the opportunity to play basketball for a living has always been my dream.”
Johnson averaged 12.8 points last season, was eighth in the conference in 3s per game (2.1) and finished with 978 career points. With 87 starts, he’s the most experienced Indiana player entering the draft.
But Miller will have options.
Junior guard Josh Newkirk has another season of eligibility after becoming a full-time starter last season with the Hoosiers, sophomore forward Juwan Morgan started 20 games last season and forward Collin Hartman, a former starter, plans to return for his fifth season after missing all of 2016-17 with a knee injury.