Kentucky men basketball freshman forward Bam Adebayo announced Tuesday he will officially hire an agent and remain in the 2017 NBA Draft, forgoing his remaining eligibility at Kentucky.
“After talking with Coach Cal, the staff and my family, I have decided it’s in my best interest to remain in the draft,” Adebayo said.
“This process we went through at Kentucky was a tough but a rewarding one. It was everything I wanted when I decided to come to Kentucky. It taught me a lot. It taught me how to be a better man on and off the court. I have improved so much since the beginning of the season thanks to the hard work of the coaching staff. They helped me with every step of the process along the way and they never gave up on me.
“I also want to thank my teammates. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to grow with. We were all like brothers. I also want to thank the fans for their support and everything they do for us. Their passion is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
Adebayo is the fifth underclassman to hire an agent, joining sophomores Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries and fellow freshmen De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. Freshman Hamidou Diallo has also declared for the draft, but has not hired an agent.
Like Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns, who developed at Kentucky and went on to become NBA superstars, Adebayo evolved into an unstoppable post presence as the season progressed. The 6-foot-10 freshman from Little Washington, North Carolina, was arguably UK’s most effective player over the last month and a half, averaging a double-double during the Wildcats’ late-season 14-game winning streak.
For the year, Adebayo averaged 13.0 points and a team-best 8.0 rebounds per game. He also led the team in blocks per game (1.5) and double-doubles (eight), including five double-doubles over his last 11 games. He was a member of the All-Southeastern Conference Second Team and was also named to the All-SEC Tournament Team during his successful freshman campaign.
Playing in a guard-heavy lineup, Adebayo provided UK with its most consistent inside presence. His .599 field-goal percentage was the best among players attempting at least 100 shots for the season, and his 101 dunks on the year are more than any other Kentucky player under Calipari. Davis had 92 during the 2011-12 season.
Adebayo took his game to another level starting in February. He followed a 22-point, 15-rebound game at Missouri with an 18-point, 15-rebound effort vs. No. 13/12 Florida, accomplishing a pair of milestones in the process. His back-to-back double-doubles were the first of the season and put him in the team lead with five, while his back-to-back 15-rebound games marked the first such stretch since Jared Prickett accomplished the feat on Feb. 6 and Feb. 9, 1994. It was the first time a UK player had posted back-to-back games of at least 15 boards in consecutive SEC games since Sam Bowie on March 1 and March 3, 1984.
In the opening NCAA Tournament game vs. North Kentucky, Adebayo collected 18 rebounds, the most boards under Calipari in an NCAA Tournament game at Kentucky and the third most all-time in UK history in the tournament. Per ESPN Stats and Info, he became just the second UK player (Julius Randle in 2014) with a double-double in each of his first two NCAA Tournament games.
Since Calipari joined the Wildcat program for the 2009-10 season, UK has produced 28 NBA Draft picks over seven seasons, more than double any other school. Included in the 28 are 21 first-round selections, three No. 1 overall picks, 11 top-10 selections and 14 lottery picks.
Of the 18 players in the Calipari era who declared for the NBA Draft after one season at Kentucky, all 18 were drafted in the first round.