Arizona Wildcats center Christian Koloko declares for 2022 NBA Draft
Christian Koloko is headed to the next level.
The Arizona big man officially declared for the 2022 NBA Draft Monday morning. “Since I started playing basketball, playing in the NBA has always been my dream,” he told NBA insider Shams Charania. “I think I’m ready for that.” Koloko also shared a message to the Arizona fanbase on social media, thanking everyone for his three years in Tucson.
Forever thankful Wildcats nation ❤️❤️ 🐻⬇️ pic.twitter.com/usbrkfMw6U
— CjKoloko (@kolokojunior1) April 18, 2022
The 7-footer at the heart of Arizona’s defense developed into one of the most impactful players in the conference this past season, taking home both Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player awards.
Koloko has great shot-blocking instincts to pair with remarkable length and fluidity. He ended the regular season leading the Pac-12 in PER, defensive win shares, per-40 win shares, defensive box plus/minus, overall box plus/minus, and block percentage. As Arizona ran through its schedule to a record of 33-4, Koloko was a major driving force.
He’ll join fellow Arizona star Bennedict Mathurin in the draft pool. Mathurin declared on April 13. While Mathurin figures to be a lottery pick, Koloko is hovering around mock drafts in the latter stages of the first round and early part of the second. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony mocked Koloko to the Portland Trailblazers with the 36th overall selection in his most recent mock.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has Koloko as the 22nd-best available player in the draft field. Here’s some of O’Connor’s analysis:
“Nasty shot blocker in help situations. He has good floor sense and can rapidly change directions to block or alter shots. He’s also solid when defending pick-and-rolls as a drop defender.
“Very mobile for his size. He flourished when switching onto guards and wings at Arizona. He gets a bit too handsy at times when he should back off, but once he gets in a film room and in the practice court with NBA coaches, hours of studying Rudy Gobert should help.”
The NBA Draft Combine begins May 16 in Chicago, Illinois, and runs through the 22nd. The NBA Draft is June 23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
For Arizona, Koloko’s departure opens up a starting spot at center for Oumar Ballo. The 7-footer followed coach Tommy Lloyd from Gonzaga to Arizona last offseason and appeared in 37 games off the bench. He averaged 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds a night in just 15 minutes. Ballo’s per-40 numbers look strong, and somewhat comparable to Koloko’s. He averaged 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes on the floor, shooting a similarly high percentage from the field.
“I think we’re in great shape,” Lloyd told reporters last week when discussing next year’s roster. “I love where we’re at. People decide to do things for whatever reason. This is how I operate. I think we’re in a great position and I think we’re gonna have a really good roster next year. I think we’ll be extremely competitive and I’m excited about that.”