Jonah Bolden curiously departs UCLA basketball team to turn pro

UCLA junior Jonah Bolden has decided forego his final two years of college basketball eligibility and play professionally this coming season. Bolden informed the coaching staff of his decision to leave the school after one season, the UCLA athletic department announced Tuesday.

Where the 6-foot-10 Australian-born guard/forward will play professionally is uncertain, but a return to his home country seems an obvious possibility.

UCLA is now without three players that were expected to be on the roster this year not including guard Prince Ali, who isn’t likely to return from meniscus surgery by the start of the season. Three-star recruit Kobe Paras mysteriously withdrew from UCLA in June after academic conditions of his admission weren’t met. Junior Noah Allen transferred to Hawaii in May and now Bolden is departing what was expected to be a deep roster considering incoming talent labeled head coach Steve Alford’s best recruiting class.

Bolden emerged late last season to start 11 games, averaging 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds during his lone season in Westwood. COnsidering his promising role at UCLA, turning pro is something of a curious decision for the budding talent with NBA potential. The timing is certainly strange, considering Bolden could have declared for the 2016 NBA draft after last season.

His height, athleticism and perimeter shooting skills seemingly make him a perfect fit in what figures to be an up-tempo offense to be led by five-star freshman point guard Lonzo Ball. UCLA’s other touted incoming freshman, forward T.J. Leaf, is certainly a threat to Bolden’s playing time.

Bolden missed the entire 2014-15 season after the NCAA ruled him academically ineligible following his move from Australia to Las Vegas to attend Findlay Prep. But there has been no word on any academic issues for Bolden that would affect this coming season.