The University of Kentucky basketball team’s top seven scorers and Duke University’s Jahlil Okafor all said they will leave school early to enter the National Basketball Association draft.
The Wildcats finished the regular season undefeated and lost to Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament semifinals. Six of the seven Kentucky players are projected first-round picks, according to an ESPN poll of NBA executives.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles and Devin Booker announced their decisions Thursday in a joint news conference in Lexington.
“Going into this season you just want to be a part of something special,” Booker said. “We wanted to make history and we did that.”
Okafor, who led the national champions in points (17.5), rebounds (8.6) and blocks (1.5) per game as a freshman, also announced he will enter the draft. A projected lottery pick, he’s the sixth Duke player to enter the draft after one college season.
The 30 players taken in the first round of the draft for next season will make from $4.75 million to $943,000 as rookies, according to the league’s labor agreement.
Towns, a freshman, is the top-rated prospect according to ESPN. Under coach John Calipari, Kentucky has produced 15 first round-draft picks in the past five years.
Before the announcement, Kentucky was the 10-1 co-favorite to win next year’s national championship, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.