UCLA guard Jaylen Clark declares for NBA Draft
UCLA guard Jaylen Clark has played his last game for the Bruins.
The junior guard and National Defensive Player of the Year announced on his Instagram page on Wednesday that he will be declaring for the 2023 NBA Draft. It’s not immediately clear if he plans to hold on to his final two years of eligibility. The deadline to withdraw from the draft is May 31.
Clark is recovering from a significant lower-leg injury (UCLA has not specified what) suffered in the team’s regular-season finale on March 4, an injury that forced him to miss both the Pac-12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. How that injury impacts his stock remains to be seen, but when healthy, Clark is one of the best wing defenders in the entire draft class.
“I’d like to thank everyone that has helped me get this far,” Clark wrote in his farewell message. “I hope to be a light for the kids coming behind me. Thank you to UCLA and Coach (Mick) Cronin for believing in me. I’d like to announce that I am declaring for the 2023 Draft.”
The 6-foot-5 junior from Riverside made 29 starts in 30 appearances this past season. He took on a major role in the offense with wings Johnny Juzang and Jules Bernard departing, and turned in a career-best stat line: 13.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 2.6 steals a game. Clark also upped his 3-point percentage from 26% to 33%.
Earlier this week, he was named the National Defensive Player of the Year by the NABC. He was also named the Pac-12’s DPOY in addition to earning spots on the league’s All-Defensive Team and all-conference second team.
It’s tough to gauge Clark’s draft stock. If he is indeed recovering from an Achilles injury as reports have suggested, he could be unavailable for the NBA Draft Combine (May 15-21).
But Clark’s athleticism and rugged defense, coupled with his clear and obvious growth as a player over the years, could be enough to convince some team to take a flier on him.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie has the Charlotte Hornets selecting Clark with the No. 41 overall pick in his latest mock draft.
If Clark were to return to UCLA, spend the summer rehabbing, and then assume an even larger role on the team next season, he might be able to play his way into the first round.
UCLA will now await decisions from senior stars Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell. Both can return, but they’ve each played four seasons for the Bruins and might feel it’s time to move on. The Bruins are also still awaiting public declarations from freshmen Adem Bona and Amari Bailey on their futures.
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