After an inconsistent sophomore season, Thomas Bryant is expected to test his NBA stock during the next month.
Robert Johnson will do the same.
Bryant and Johnson will declare for the NBA Draft, but will not hire agents, Indiana announced Tuesday. It’s the same approach that teammate James Blackmon Jr. will take over the coming month. OG Anunoby, meanwhile, does have plans to hire an agent and begin his professional career.
“These four young men all have unique talents and we support them in their decisions,” IU coach Archie Miller said in a statement. “We congratulate OG and hope that James, Robert and Thomas can benefit from this and make the best decision that will have a lifelong impact. As the semester winds down, we will continue to help them in any way with our priority being they continue their commitment to their academics and all eventually become Indiana University graduates.”
By declining to sign with representation, Bryant, Johnson and Blackmon maintain their amateurism and can return to Indiana if they wish. The deadline to withdraw and return to school is May 24.
Although he had first-round upside after a solid freshman season, Bryant did not declare for the draft last spring. He cited the bonds he had with teammates and the will to continue his development as the primary reasons for returning as a sophomore.
But Bryant’s sophomore season didn’t pan out as he hoped. Named a preseason All-American by Blue Ribbon Magazine, Bryant made only modest improvements to his freshman stat line. He averaged 12.6 points after posting 11.9 points per game as a freshman. He also grabbed 6.6 rebounds per game after averaging 5.8 during his first season.
And after leading the Big Ten with a .683 field goal percentage as a freshman, Bryant shot 51.9 percent from the field as a sophomore. His offensive efficiency also dropped from the 35th-best mark in the nation during the 2015-16 season to No. 455 as a sophomore.
Bryant did improve as a shot blocker and as a 3-point shooter as a sophomore, making 38 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. But with that, he too often got lost on the perimeter instead of asserting himself as an offensive post presence.
Draft Express currently projects Bryant as a second-round pick. The same service also considers him to be the No. 9 player in the sophomore class and the No. 4 player in the Big Ten.
“I’m going to put all my energy in getting the most out of this opportunity and see what the best decision will be for my future,” Bryant said. “I love IU and my teammates, but having the opportunity to play basketball for a living has always been my dream.”
Johnson is the most experienced player on IU’s roster, having made 87 career starts. He’s also 22 points shy of joining the 1,000-point club.
He was stuck in a shooting slump throughout the month of February before breaking out with a 26-point performance in a 96-92 win at Ohio State on March 4.
“I’m excited to go through this process and use this as a learning experience,” Johnson said. “Every player in college has the goal to compete at the highest level and I’m looking forward to what the future may hold.”
A new rule established last year allows players to declare for early entry to the NBA Draft pool and retain their eligibility. It allows players to use the draft process as a learning experience, while they work out for teams and interview with team executives.
That’s what Blackmon did last season, though his knee injury prevented him from working out for teams. He’ll get the full experience this time.
“My ultimate goal has always been to play professionally and this is an opportunity I want to take advantage of,” Blackmon said. “This is an important process, and I am excited to take part in it.”
Despite a season-ending knee injury suffered on Jan. 18 at Penn State, Anunoby is looking to take advantage of his first-round draft stock.
“I have enjoyed my time at Indiana and after thinking this over with my family, I believe this is the best decision for me personally,” Anunoby said. “I will always be grateful to Coach Crean, his staff, and especially my teammates for two of the best years of my life. I wish Coach Miller and the program the best of luck in the future.”
While Anunoby enters the draft process projected firmly in the first round, landing spots for Bryant and Blackmon are less clear.
Bryant will have to decide whether a year under Archie Miller can help bounce his stock back into the first round. Blackmon isn’t projected to be drafted, and he’ll have to decide if he’s simply ready to pursue a pro career either stateside or abroad.
Draft Express considers him the No. 26 available junior and the No. 15 player in the Big Ten.
So Miller will have at least another month of navigating the current roster crunch he inherited. The new IU coach has 16 players and only 13 available scholarships. That includes fall signees Justin Smith and Clifton Moore, who have not yet made their intentions known.