Tyler Honeycutt will declare for the NBA Draft and will hire an agent, the UCLA sophomore forward said during a conference call with reporters on Monday.
The Sylmar High product was long rumored to be planning on leaving for the NBA, despite a possible work stoppage, after an All-Pac-10 first team season.
Honeycutt averaged 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 35 minutes per game as a sophomore in helping lead the Bruins to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, a year after the team went 14-18.
UCLA’s best pitch to Honeycutt was the potential for next year’s team, but Honeycutt cited what is projected to be a weak draft class as the catalyst for his decision.
“It wasn’t really conflicting,” Honeycutt said. “The biggest X-factor, the thing that would keep me, is the team next year and how good we could be. It could be a great team, but I feel like what’s best for me is to leave this year.”
Honeycutt met with UCLA head coach Ben Howland on Monday to discuss his plans, and got his blessing to leave, the latest in a long line of recent Bruin early entries.
Recent mock drafts have Honeycutt anywhere from the mid-first round to the early second round, but his play in the NCAA Tournament might have turned some heads. Honeycutt had 29 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, seven blocks and four steals in two tournament games as the Bruins beat Michigan State and lost to Florida.
Honeycutt said he was aiming for the lottery and was going to sign with an agent to maximize his preparation for the draft. Honeycutt said the biggest knock that he’s heard has been on his 6-8, 188-pound frame, and how it will react to the rigors of the NBA.
“I think I’ll fit in well,” Honeycutt said. “The factor for me is physically at the next level, which I plan to work on, dedicating every day to being the best player I can be. That’s probably the biggest knock on me – people talk about my frame.”
Howland tried to dissuade Honeycutt from making the decision because of the possible NBA lockout, which will affect incoming rookies tremendously, eliminating crucial summer workouts.
Now Howland will set to work on the team’s other potential early entries, junior guard Malcolm Lee and sophomore forward Reeves Nelson. Nelson implied he was leaning toward returning for his junior season after the NCAA Tournament run, but Lee was non-committal on his return.
“I just wish Tyler the very best,” Howland said. “He did a great job for us these past two years. He’s worked very hard, I think he improved a lot. He made a big jump from the end of his freshman year until now.
“He will always be a Bruin, and when he is done, I want him to make sure he comes back and finishes his degree here at UCLA, which he said he would.”