2015 early entries

Florida forward Chris Walker officially entering NBA Draft

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Earlier this week it was reported that the chances of Chris Walker returning to Florida for his junior season were slim, with transferring and declaring for the NBA Draft both being possibilities. Friday afternoon the school announced that that Walker will take his shot at professional basketball, and he joins Michael Frazier II as players who are leaving the program early for the pro ranks.

Walker’s two season in Gainesville weren’t without bumps, as academic issues and the receipt of impermissible benefits kept him off the court in 2013-14 until February. Expected to take a step forward in 2014-15, that did not turn out to be the case for a player who entered a college as an athletic but incredibly raw prospect.

The 6-foot-10 Walker averaged 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season, and he isn’t projected to be selected in the June draft by DraftExpress.

Florida still has a number of options in the front court next season, with veterans Dorian Finney-Smith, Alex Murphy and DeVon Walker all back for another season. The Gators also add USF transfer John Egbunu and freshmen Noah Dickerson and Kevarrius Hayes to their front court rotation.

Arizona forward Stanley Johnson enters 2015 NBA Draft

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While he took some time to evaluate his options, Arizona freshman forward Stanley Johnson has decided to enter the 2015 NBA Draft. Johnson announced his decision to forego his final three seasons of eligibility Thursday evening at a press conference held with Arizona head coach Sean Miller.

Named the Pac-12’s top rookie and also a first team all-conference selection, Johnson averaged a team-best 13.8 points per game in 2014-15 while also accounting for 6.5 rebounds. The 6-foot-7 Fullerton, California product, who’s projected to be a lottery pick in the June draft, shot 44.6 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Johnson’s departure is one that the Wildcats planned for recruiting-wise, as their incoming freshman class has multiple perimeter players capable of putting points on the board. Findlay Prep product Allonzo Trier is the most highly regarded of the group, but Las Vegas native Ray Smith (who missed his senior season with a torn ACL) will also be heard from on the wing and combo guard Justin Simon can play either on or off the ball.

Arizona also returns multiple perimeter players (not counting point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright) from last season’s Elite Eight team, with Gabe York and Elliott Pitts being the most experienced and junior college transfer Kadeem Allen available after redshirting last season.

Losing a player as talented as Johnson hurts, but Arizona’s worked hard to ensure that they have the pieces needed to account for this news. Next up for them is an official declaration from center Kaleb Tarczewski, whom many believe will return to Tucson for his senior season.

UNLV sophomore forward Christian Wood to enter 2015 NBA Draft (VIDEO)

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Less than a week after five-star forward Stephen Zimmerman announced that he’ll attend UNLV, the Runnin’ Rebels lost its most productive front court option.

Christian Wood, a second team All-Mountain West selection, has decided to forego his final two seasons of eligibility and enter the 2015 NBA Draft. Wood announced it in a video sent out over social media Wednesday night. Wood averaged 15.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game last season, taking over as the Runnin’ Rebels’ primary interior option following the departures of Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith.

Draft Express projected Wood to be a first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and amongst college sophomores the site ranks him ahead of both Bobby Portis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

2015 NBA Draft Early Entry List

Without Wood UNLV will be young in the front court, but they’ll have more experience than they did a season ago. Goodluck Okonoboh and Dwayne Morgan will both be sophomores, and Oregon transfer Ben Carter is eligible after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules. Add in freshmen Zimmerman and Derrick Jones, and UNLV won’t lack for depth in the front court.

But even with that being the case, this is a group that had the potential to comprise one of the best front court units in the country had Wood decided to return for his junior season.

Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell to enter 2015 NBA Draft

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While many anticipated that Ohio State freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, who’s expected to be a top five pick, would enter the 2015 NBA Draft nothing had been announced with the NBA’s early entry deadline less than a week away. Wednesday afternoon it was reported by ESPN.com that Russell will indeed forego his final three seasons of eligibility, with the talented guard providing a quote as well.

“This was a hard decision because I knew I could come back and play with my teammates who I love, and to be coached by coach Thad Matta again would have been awesome, but at the same time I wanted to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA,” Russell told ESPN.com on Wednesday. “I know what I am capable of and the sky’s the limit with effort. I know I have a lot to work on.”

In his lone season as a Buckeye, Russell played both on and off the ball and was one of the best players (not just freshmen) in the country. The Montverde Academy product led Thad Matta’s team to the NCAA tournament Round of 32, averaging 19.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

The Updated NBA Draft Early Entry List

With the seniors, led by guards Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson, and Russell moving on Ohio State will be a very young team next season. Rising junior forward Marc Loving will be their lone scholarship upperclassman, and on the perimeter freshmen A.J. Harris, JaQuan Lyle and Austin Grandstaff and sophomore Kam Williams will be key players as the Buckeyes look to account for their personnel losses.

Arkansas junior guard Michael Qualls to enter NBA Draft

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After making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008 last month, Arkansas will have two key personnel losses to account for as it looks to make a return trip next season.

One day after sophomore forward and SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis announced that he would forego his final two seasons of eligibility to turn pro, junior guard Michael Qualls announced via his Twitter account that he will also be moving on. One of the best dunkers in college basketball, Qualls averaged 15.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Razorbacks in 2014-15.

“My time at the University of Arkansas has not only helped me grow as a basketball player, but also as a man and I’m very thankful for the guidance the coaching staff and everyone at the university has given me over my three years,” Qualls wrote. “After sitting down with my family I felt the best decision for me is to continue my basketball career as a professional. I’m ready to provide for my family and my son.”

2015 NBA Draft Early Entry List

DraftExpress ranks Qualls as the 40th-best prospect on its board of the top 100 draft-eligible players, and he was projected to be an early second-round choice in the 2016 NBA Draft. But even with the uncertainty that comes with being a second-round possibility, it’s clear that there are other motivating factors for Qualls as he makes this decision.

As for Arkansas, the losses of Portis and Qualls leave some significant holes to fill within their rotation. In addition to those two, the Razorbacks also lost seniors Alandise Harris and Rashad Madden. Freshmen Jimmy Whitt and Ted Kapita will look to compete for playing time in 2015-16 with players such as guards Anton Beard and Anthlon Bell and forward Moses Kingsley among the returnees.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden to return for junior season

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With freshmen Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander having decided to enter the 2015 NBA Draft, Kansas still needed decisions from sophomore guard Wayne Selden and junior forward Perry Ellis. Friday afternoon Selden made his decision, as the school announced that Selden will return to Lawrence for his junior season.

Selden was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection this season, averaging 9.4 points and 2.6 assists per game, and he was also selected to the league’s all-tournament team for his play at the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. A five-star recruit out of high school, Selden has decided that there’s more work to be done in Lawrence before moving on to the professional ranks.

RELATED: Who’s going, staying or undecided in regards to the NBA Draft?

“A lot of good things are coming up for KU and I want to be a part of that,” Selden said in the release. “We’re going to represent the USA at the World (University) Games this summer. We’re moving into new dorms (McCarthy Hall) before school starts and we’re playing in Maui (Hawaii) next year.”

Kansas won 27 games and an 11th consecutive Big 12 regular season title in 2014-15, but for the second consecutive season the Jayhawks didn’t get past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Ellis’ decision regarding the NBA Draft is the only one that Kansas is waiting for at this point, and if he returns the Jayhawks will once again be in the mix atop the Big 12 (two-time Big 12 tournament champion Iowa State, and Oklahoma should also be there).

In addition to Selden, guards Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham and Brannen Greene and forwards Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson will be back next season. The Jayhawks will add five-star forward Carlton Bragg to the front court, and they’re also still in the mix for five-star big man Stephen Zimmerman.