LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.
The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and a 13th straight regular-season Big 12 title before a loss to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.
“After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball,” Jackson said. “I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA.”
Jackson was the nation’s No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation’s top backcourts.
“This obviously does not come as a surprise,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “When we recruited Josh we were so fortunate but also knew this would probably be a one-year stay. He has not only surpassed our expectations as a player but also as a leader and a teammate.”
With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket — not to mention defensive chops rare among freshmen — Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation’s top draft prospects.
His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.
He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed 10 points in the season-ending loss to the Ducks.
Jackson’s suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women’s basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson’s teammate, Lagerald Vick. Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial was scheduled for May 24.
His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.
Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self’s ire when he didn’t tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.
His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter from Ukraine has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.
“We are all very happy for Josh and his family and are very proud of having coached one of the most talented kids that has ever come through here,” Self said. “We’ve had a lot really good ones here but Josh is as prepared for the next level as anyone that we have ever had.”
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