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UCLA Basketball: Johnny Juzang Declares for NBA Draft
Juzang is retaining his eligibility and not hiring an agent for now.
The latest chip of the UCLA puzzle dropped today when UCLA sophomore Johnny Juzang announced on Twitter that he would be declaring for the NBA Draft. Crucially, Juzang will not be hiring an agent at this time, thus retaining his eligibility and keeping the door open for a return for next year.
This always felt like the next logical step for Juzang and the program. After a magical NCAA tournament run where he led all players in scoring, Juzang shot up draft boards and went from someone who was clearly returning prior to the tournament to someone who could theoretically be drafted in the first round. But I use the word theoretically because analysis of where he could possibly end up in the draft is all over the place, with some analysts placing him in the late first-round while others don’t have him on the board at all. Which all makes sense - Juzang played his way into the conversation with that March run, but does that discount his hit and miss play leading up to that?
In that context, Juzang entering his name into the draft but retaining his eligibility makes sense. If you put a gun to my head at the moment, I’d say he gets drafted, but likely in the second round rather than the first, and that’s a crucial difference, not just from a money perspective but even from a job security perspective. By putting his name into the draft, Johnny and his family can get an honest evaluation from NBA teams as to his draft potential and what areas he needs to focus on, and can then make an informed decision as to whether he will stay or go. As mentioned, Juzang did not hire an agent, which means he is still eligible to return next season and can pull his name out of the draft at any point. If there was a target date to do so, I would expect around the end of June, which would follow the NBA Draft Combine.
For their part, UCLA and head coach Mick Cronin did not seem surprised by the announcement and put out a statement soon after Juzang made his.
This is a great look from Cronin and the staff, at once supportive of Juzang and letting potential recruits know that UCLA is looking out for their best interests. It’s another in a long string of occurrences over the past few weeks that reminds people that Coach Cronin has the program trending in the right direction.
There is, of course, the question of what Juzang’s decision means for UCLA, specifically when it comes to the recruitment of K.J. Simpson. Simpson is a combo-guard who was recently let out of his NLI with Arizona following the firing of Sean Miller and the hiring of Tommy Lloyd. Rumors abound that Simpson would jump on a UCLA offer if one was extended, but with the status of Juzang up in the air, that likely would not come for a few months unless the program was getting clear indications from Juzang that he would not be returning. There’s a question of whether a top 80 player like Simpson would be willing to wait around for that possibility, but that will likely be UCLA’s play for the next few months.
No matter what Johnny Juzang chooses to do going forward, we’d like to wish him the best.