Junior Brandon Clarke Declares for 2019 NBA Draft After 1 Season at Gonzaga

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2019

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Brandon Clarke #15 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrates after his team's made three pointer against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Gonzaga junior forward Brandon Clarke announced Wednesday he's declared for the 2019 NBA draft, but retains the option to return to the Bulldogs for his senior season.

Clarke, who spent the 2018-19 campaign with the Zags after playing two years at San Jose State, provided a statement about his decision:

"First, I would like to thank my family for their continued support of my basketball career. I would also like to thank coach [Mark] Few and the entire Gonzaga coaching staff for sharing their knowledge of the game. I transferred to GU to develop my game and learn as much as I could from the top coaching staff in the country. With their help, I am confident in the player I have become and I'm ready for the next step.

"My teammates, my brothers, I cannot thank them enough. These have been the best two years of my life. Lastly, I want to thank the best fans in the country, Zag Nation. I will always be proud to be a Zag! With the support from our coaching staff and my family, I have decided to chase my dream of playing in the NBA."

Clarke enjoyed a terrific season for the Bulldogs. Nationally, he ranked third in blocks per game (3.09) and fourth in shooting percentage (69.3 percent). He also averaged 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals across 37 appearances.

The 22-year-old Vancouver native was named the West Coast Conference's Defensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. He also earned First Team All-WCC and Third Team All-American honors.

He'll face questions about how his game would translate to the NBA level, though.

Clarke doesn't fit the mold of a modern stretch-4 because he attempted just 24 threes during his collegiate career, and only connected on 25 percent of those shots. But at 6'8'', 215 pounds, he also doesn't possess the size of a prototypical post player.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected the power forward would go No. 16 overall to the Brooklyn Nets in his latest mock draft, writing:

"Clarke averaged 20.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks through four NCAA tournament games, further strengthening his case as a potential lottery pick. He won't win over every front office as a 22-year-old with a limited offensive game. But the Nets, now a playoff team, could value his motor and athleticism in an energy role right away."

The Desert Vista High School (Arizona) product does possess upside thanks to his athleticism and defensive skill set, but his ability to provide the value typically associated with a lottery pick will likely depend on him developing effective outside shooting.

Clarke will get a chance to showcase any progress in that area at the NBA Draft Combine, which kicks off May 14 in Chicago.

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