Kentucky's Brandon Boston Jr. becomes third Wildcat to declare for NBA draft

Kentucky freshman Brandon Boston Jr. announced Saturday he was entering the NBA draft, becoming the third Wildcats player to announce his NBA intentions this week.

Isaiah Jackson declared for the draft on Wednesday, while Terrence Clarke announced his decision on Friday to go pro. Jackson is the only one among the trio who said he will not hire an agent, leaving open the possibility of returning to Kentucky next season.

Boston Jr. entered the season as a projected top-10 pick, but struggled for much of Kentucky's disappointing season and saw his stock drop as a result.

"It was an honor for me to play for the Big Blue Nation this season and to suit up for one of the best coaches in the country," Boston said. "I want to thank Coach Cal, the staff, and my teammates for pushing me day in and day out to be the best player I could be. I'm proud of the progress I made on the court and off it this season. I'm disappointed in the results because we really wanted to win for the best fans in the country."

A 6-foot-7 wing from Georgia, Boston averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds during his freshman season in Lexington. There were bright spots, including 20 points and 10 rebounds in a November loss to Richmond, and 21 points in the season finale win over South Carolina. But he struggled from the floor, shooting just 38.4% inside the arc and 30% from 3-point range.

"I am proud of the growth and development Brandon underwent this season," coach John Calipari said. "Brandon would be the first to tell you this season wasn't easy. It was tough and filled with challenges. But what impressed me with him is how he handled any adversity thrown his way like a professional would - with maturity and with a work ethic that some of our best guys in that league have had."

Boston Jr. is ranked No. 34 in ESPN's NBA draft rankings.

Jackson was one of the few Kentucky players to boost their stock during the season, showcasing his athleticism and shot-blocking ability and establishing himself as a potential lottery pick. He's currently No. 12 in ESPN's NBA draft rankings, but made it clear he is leaving the door open for a return to college.

"I will be entering the 2021 NBA Draft without an agent and testing the waters," Jackson said. "I am looking forward to the process and seeing what my future holds. I appreciate all the support in making this decision and I want to thank everybody who has been with me since day one."

Jackson averaged 8.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks this season.

Clarke played in just eight games this season due to an ankle injury. He played in the first seven games of the season, then was sidelined with an ankle injury that was supposed to keep him out a few weeks. But Clarke didn't play again until the season finale against South Carolina.

"As an adolescent, having the privilege to put on the Kentucky uniform and play in front of the BBN was always a lifelong goal of mine," Clarke said. "Although it was hindered due to things out of my own control, the experience is something I will keep with me forever. I have grown a lot with this experience and I will never take it for granted."

Clarke, a 6-foot-7 guard, was also a projected lottery pick entering the season -- but his struggles and injury questions dropped him all the way to No. 67 in ESPN's draft rankings. He averaged 9.6 points in eight games.

After a historically bad 9-16 campaign, Calipari has to reload his roster more than usual. But Kentucky is once again near the top of the recruiting class rankings, with the No. 3 class in the country. The Wildcats are bringing in five-star big man Daimion Collins and top-30 prospects Bryce Hopkins and Nolan Hickman. They also already landed West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe, and are considered the favorite for Auburn transfer Justin Powell.