USC sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright will enter his name in the NBA draft process, but will not hire an agent at this time, Boatwright told USCfootball.com. The decision was first reported by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.
The news of Boatwright's decision comes on the same day head coach Andy Enfield received a second two-year contract extension. Entering his name is not an unexpected move from Boatwright. Associate head coach Tony Bland told Scout that the Trojans expected both Boatwright and fellow sophomore forward Chimezie Metu to "test the waters."
There was some concern amongst Trojan fans that Boatwright might hire an agent and immediately push his chips in with no intentions of returning to school. However, he said he has not done that as of yet, leaving open the possibility of him withdrawing his name and being able to return to USC for his junior season.
An offensive mismatch waiting to happen, the 6-foot-10 Boatwright averaged 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds, but only played in 19 games. He missed the first two games of the season with a shoulder injury and then was out for two months after partially tearing the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Boatwright's game showed improvements from his freshman year. He shot higher field goal, three-point and free throw percentages while increasing his assist-to-turnover ratio. He was at his best in the NCAA tournament when he scored 54 points in three games while shooting 54 percent.
But he still has areas that need work, including defensive lateral movement and rebounding, that would help improve his draft stock, particularly if he were to stay fully healthy next season.
Due to NCAA rules that were adopted prior to last year, Boatwright could still return to USC. Early entrants are allowed to throw their name into the mix and participate in workouts, including the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago May 9-14 to assess their status. However, if Boatwright does not hire representation from a sports agency, he is allowed to withdraw his name by the May 24 deadline and still be eligible with the NCAA if he were to return to school.
The Trojans have the potential to return their entire roster and add Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. and a strong three-man recruiting class. However, Shaqquan Aaron has already declared for the NBA draft (though he also has not hired an agent) and the Trojans' 2017-18 fate could hinge on the decisions of Boatwright and Metu. If both were to remain draft eligible, it would be a crushing blow to the Trojans, leaving the frontcourt lean on experience and playmaking ability.
Similarly, USC had an opportunity to return all but one player after last season, but saw a mass exodus. Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic both left school early for the NBA and went undrafted. Katin Reinhardt and Darion Clark were both grad transfers leaving for Marquette and Grand Canyon, respectively, while Malik Marquetti (Louisiana-Lafayette) and Malik Martin (South Florida) both left for new schools as well, but had to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.
Despite the departures, USC was even better this season, building on last year's NCAA tournament appearance with a school record 26 wins, including two in the NCAA tournament.
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