UCLA’s Jaylen Clark declares himself for the NBA draft despite a serious leg injury

UCLA guard Jaylen Clark celebrates after scoring a three-pointer against Arizona in the 2023 season. (Ringo HW Chiu/Associated Press)

Less than a month after suffering a serious leg injury which sidelined him for the last six games of the season, UCLA‘S Jaylen Clark has declared for the NBA draft.

The junior guard, who has established himself as one of the nation’s best defensive players, made his announcement on Wednesday on Instagramdeclined to reveal whether he intended to dive headfirst into the June 22 draft or to uphold his remaining eligibility.

Clark said last week there was no timeline for his return to the court after undergoing surgery three days after being injured early in the second half of the Bruins’ final regular-season game against Arizona on March 4. His first game with the team came during UCLA’s West Region semifinal loss to Gonzaga, Clark watched from behind the bench, his right leg resting on a scooter.

Clark’s move to declare himself for the draft at a time when he’s recovering from a serious injury is similar to that of a former UCLA teammate. Chris Smith was drafted for the 2021 draft while rehabilitating a torn knee ligament, going undrafted before signing a two-way contract with the Detroit Pistons and later suffering another knee injury.

The 6-foot-5 Clark is an enticing prospect because of the relentlessness that has made him a Pac-12 and National Assn. of Basketball Coaches Defensive Player of the Year. After becoming a full-time starter for the first time this season, Clark averaged 13 points, six rebounds and Pac-12-best 2.6 steals per game.

His highlights included a steal and breakaway dunk to finish off Kentucky at Madison Square Garden and a second chance three-pointer in the dying seconds to lift the Bruins over rival USC at Pauley Pavilion.

Clark said last week that he was ahead of schedule with his recovery.

“It was great,” he said. “I’m not in pain, I can get up and do anything.”

Other Bruins are also facing decisions about their future. Senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. is expected to leave after being named Pac-12 Player of the Year, and freshman guard Amari Bailey could also move to the NBA after averaging in his last six games of the 2022-23 season scored 17.3 points. Redshirt senior point guard Tyger Campbell has not said if he will return for the additional season of eligibility granted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freshman center Adem Bona also must decide whether to leave or return to rehab his shoulder injury and play another season at UCLA before turning pro.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Source : sports.yahoo.com

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