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UConn's James Bouknight Declares for 2021 NBA Draft, Plans to Hire an Agent

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2021

Connecticut's James Bouknight plays during an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

UConn sophomore guard James Bouknight announced Wednesday he's decided to forgo his remaining collegiate eligibility to enter the 2021 NBA draft with plans to hire an agent.

He confirmed the decision to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski:

"Just coming into UConn when I first committed, coach [Dan] Hurley had a vision for me to helping to turn the program around and bring it back as a winning program. We reached that target. We were successful, although didn't make the run we wanted to make in the tournament.

"The opportunity to play at the highest level of basketball has always been a dream of mine, and it's an opportunity that I can't pass up right now. I feel like the pro game, with more open space on the floor, is ideal for my game."

Bouknight, who put up 13.0 points per game as a freshman, enjoyed a breakout 2020-21 season, averaging a team-high 18.7 points to go along with 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals across 15 appearances for the Huskies.

The 20-year-old New York City native missed nearly six weeks of action from early January through mid-February because of an elbow injury, but he flashed high-end offensive potential both before and after the absence.

His best performance came in a Dec. 20 overtime loss to ninth-ranked Creighton. He scored 40 points in 40 minutes, knocking down 13 of his 24 shots from the field (54.2 percent).

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The 6'5", 190-pound guard also showcased an increased level of aggressiveness as a sophomore, which was evident as he continues to make strides defensively.

"Our mentality going into each game is just 'kill or be killed,'" Bouknight told reporters in late February. "We all want to win so bad."

He still has room to grow at the defensive end and would benefit from improve shooting efficiency from three-point range, but overall his stock has risen since he arrived to Connecticut as a 4-star prospect.

Bouknight is a fringe lottery pick at this stage. He could land anywhere between the late top 10 and somewhere in the 20s depending on how the predraft process plays out. A bigger swing is always possible if something notable happens during his workouts.

He'll probably be a rotation asset early in his NBA career, perhaps the first or second guard off the bench depending on where he lands. But his long-term potential really started showing through this season at UConn, and that will make him a high-upside pick come draft night.