College Basketball

UCLA's Johnny Juzang declares for NBA Draft – while keeping his options open

April 21

The best time to strike is while the iron is hot.

That's exactly what UCLA guard Johnny Juzang has decided to do, turning his breakout stardom from the NCAA Tournament into an announcement on Tuesday that he will enter the 2021 NBA Draft.

A sophomore from Tarzana, California, Juzang transferred back home to UCLA after spending his freshman season at Kentucky. He struggled to find his footing with the Wildcats, averaging just 2.9 points while shooting 37.7% from the field. 

The move west clearly paid off. As a sophomore with the Bruins, Juzang saw his numbers rise across the board, averaging 16.0 PPG while shooting 44.1% from the field and 35.3% from 3-point range.

His production increased even more during the NCAA Tournament.

Juzang scored at least 20 points in four of UCLA's six games in its run to the Final Four, averaging 22.8 PPG and making 15 3-pointers.

That performance landed Juzang at No. 19 on Jason McIntyre's latest mock draft for FOX Sports.

Here is what McIntyre had to say about Juzang as a prospect:

"Other than Davion Mitchell, nobody helped themselves more in March than Juzang, the Kentucky transfer who was unstoppable against elite competition. Against Gonzaga and Michigan, two top-10 defenses, Juzang shot 23-for-37 from the field and 5-for-11 from deep and scored 57 points. He knows how to score the way Alex English did – not that Juzang is going to average 23-plus PPG for nine straight years. But get him in an aggressive offense, wind him up and watch him go."

If Juzang were to be a first-round pick, he would be in line for a guaranteed contract, as opposed to the non-guaranteed deal he would get as a second-round pick or undrafted free agent – and this is where Juzang is playing things carefully.

He has not hired an agent, so he can still change his mind and return to school if he receives an indication that he will not be chosen in the first round.

Many of this season's top stars followed the same strategy last season: declaring for the draft but maintaining eligibility, finding out what scouts think, and then possibly returning to school to try to improve their stock.

Players such as Baylor guard Jared Butler, Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu, Iowa center Luka Garza, Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert and Florida guard Tre Mann all declared for the draft while maintaining their eligibility after the 2019-20 season. All of them returned to school for another season, and they are now projected first-round picks in McIntyre's mock draft.

Juzang is currently not a projected first-round pick in ESPN's mock draft, although it has not been updated since Tuesday's announcement. He is projected to go 23rd in CBS' mock draft and 28th in NBC Sports mock draft

If Juzang were to return to school, the Bruins would be stacked, returning all of their starters from the Final Four squad and adding projected 2022 lottery pick Peyton Watson.

The deadline for Juzang to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft is July 19.

Until then, the ball is in his court.

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