After weeks of speculation, Georgia sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made it official Monday - he's leaving the Bulldogs two years early to enter the NBA Draft.
According to an email from Georgia to Bulldog beat writers, Caldwell-Pope will hire an agent and remain in the draft, effectively ending his career as an amateur.
His decision is a big blow for the Bulldogs, who had hoped to build around the reigning SEC Player of the Year for a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Caldwell-Pope ranked second in the SEC in scoring at 18.5 points per game. In what became his final collegiate game, he scored a career-high 32 points against LSU in the SEC Tournament. That total made him the 43rd player in UGA history to reach the 1,000-point mark for his career.
"I want to thank the University of Georgia for all it has done for me," Caldwell-Pope said in a statement. "I want to thank my coaches, teammates and fans for the love and support."
Caldwell-Pope also led the Bulldogs in rebounding, steals, minutes played, as well as field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws made. He ranked among the SEC's leaders in nine of the 13 categories for which individual stats are kept. In addition, he was one of just nine players in all of NCAA Division I to have scored in double figures in each of his team's games in the 2013 season.
"I think that we spoke to, and I'm going to guess, in the ballpark of 25 of the NBA teams," Fox said in a press conference Monday afternoon. "We got the official information from the NBA, which I think polls 20 teams and he obviously got lots of positive feedback. We were very diligent to get as much information as we could directly from NBA people."
Caldwell-Pope could not be reached for comment. Earlier, UGA released a statement saying Pope's family did not wish for the player to be interviewed regarding his choice to turn pro.
"He (Caldwell-Pope) said in Nashville (at the SEC Tournament) that he was going to be very patient, and he was," Fox said. "He got the information and gauged whether it was time for him to go."
So what's next for the Bulldogs? With Caldwell-Pope now gone, the big question is who will pick up the scoring slack next year?
"We recruited with the idea that this may happen," Fox said. "Kenny Gaines, I thought, came here last year and had a lot of really good moments. Certainly, he has a big opportunity in front of him. We signed Juwan Parker in the fall knowing that this was a possibility. It does leave us very young in the backcourt again, there's no doubt about it."
The 2013 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27.
NOTES: Fox said that forward Marcus Thornton was granted a medical redshirt after last season and still has two years of eligibility.
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