Likely lottery pick Kai Jones leaving Texas early for NBA Draft

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Texas forward Kai Jones (22) dunks the ball ahead of Iowa State forward Javan Johnson (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Kai Jones has declared for the NBA Draft after a breakout, sophomore season that saw him rocket up NBA Draft boards to become a near-lock to be taken in the first round and, possibly, a lottery pick.

“I will be declaring for the 2021 NBA Draft,” Jones said on a statement he posted to Twitter. “I will be relinquishing my collegiate eligibility and intend to sign with an agent, but it’s forever #HookEm.”

If he does sign with an agent, he won’t be able to return to school. Often, underclassmen who declare for the draft don’t sign with an agent to preserve their eligibility if they get negative feedback at the combine or elsewhere along the pre-draft process.

“Since I can remember, having the chance to play in the National Basketball Association has been my dream. Growing up in the Bahamas, not many of my peers have had the opportunity that I have in front of me now, the ability to achieve those dreams,” Jones wrote in the statement.

While Jones averaged just under nine points and less than five rebounds a game this season, scouts are enamored with his potential. At 6-feet, 11-inches and 218 pounds, he has plenty of room to put on muscle. He can handle the ball and stretch the court, making 13 3-pointers on 38 attempts this season, which is a 38.2%. He was arguably the fastest player on the Longhorns roster this year.

“It was truly an honor to represent the Texas Longhorns for the past two seasons and suit up with my brothers night in and night out,” Jones statement reads. “I want to thank Coach Smart, the staff and my teammates for pushing me and helping me grow on and off the court. I feel like I’ve improved as a player, a teammate and a person as a Longhorn. My time here has set me up to be successful as I take the next steps in my career.”

Texas has already lost Donovan Williams and Royce Hamm Jr. to the transfer portal since the season ended with an upset loss to Abilene Christian in the NCAA tournament.

Greg Brown figures to also declare for the NBA Draft soon. Matt Coleman, Jase Febres and Jericho Sims may leaves as seniors. They can either turn pro or come back for an extra year after the NCAA froze all eligibility due to the pandemic.

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