Jayson Tatum Declares for 2017 NBA Draft, Won't Return to Duke

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2017

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 28: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 28, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

Duke forward Jayson Tatum declared for the 2017 NBA draft Wednesday after just one season with the Blue Devils.

"It's extremely exciting," Tatum said to Evan Daniels of Scout.com. "It's just another step closer to a lifelong dream that I've always had and it's the next step and I'm happy to be taking it."

Tatum was one of several highly touted freshmen who joined Duke for the 2016-17 season, and he didn't disappoint, as he averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 45.2 percent from the field. 

The St. Louis native was especially dominant when the games mattered most, and he was key in Duke winning four games in four days to take the ACC tournament title. However, Duke wasn't able to survive the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, falling 88-81 to South Carolina in the round of 32.

Does Tatum consider the season a success? 

"I think it was a great season," Tatum said, per Daniels. "It started off a little rough, being injured and being a freshman and things like that, but towards the middle and end of the season, I think I really grew as a player."

Tatum had a penchant for making explosive plays, such as this put-back dunk against Notre Dame in the ACC title game, courtesy of ESPN College BBall:

He led the Blue Devils in scoring that game with 19 points, and he put up at least that many in each of Duke's ACC tourney victories.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was among those who felt Tatum had a strong chance to be the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick in the event he decided to declare, according to the David Glenn Show:

Tatum showcased the ability to shoot, rebound and defend during his freshman campaign, all while boasting a 6'8" frame.

Per Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, the sky is seemingly the limit for Tatum as his game continues to improve and evolve:

Tatum's season got off to a late start due to a foot injury that cost eight games, but he was an immediate factor once he joined Duke's lineup.

In just his second collegiate game, Tatum put up 22 points and eight rebounds in a win over a Florida team that was ranked all season long.

He became more consistent as the season continued, and by the time postseason play rolled around, Tatum was showing the college basketball world why he was considered a surefire star entering 2016-17.

Based on the way Tatum played down the stretch, there wasn't much left for him to prove at Duke, which may have contributed to his decision to enter the draft.

Tatum already has an NBA body and skill set, and every indication is that he will be in the running to be the No. 1 overall selection.

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