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April 15, 2014

Arizona loses top two scorers to NBA draft

About as sure as the dry Arizona heat, the one-and-done future of Aaron Gordon had that inevitable feeling. It became official Tuesday afternoon at McKale Center.

But he wasn't alone as Pac-12 Conference player of the year Nick Johnson joined him, foregoing his senior season and announcing his intention to enter the 2014 NBA draft.

"It's been a great three years," said Johnson, who led the Wildcats in scoring at 16.3 points per game and was an all-league defender in his junior season.

"The feedback that I got was something that I was confident in."

Johnson, who has not signed with an agent, is projected to land in the second round and admitted some of the feedback was "negative," although he did not elaborate. Some of the traits working against him include his size at a generous 6-3 for an NBA shooting guard.

But head coach Sean Miller supported both players, adding that they took the information received from the draft advisory board - comprised of 19 of the league's 30 teams - and made an informed decision with the window available.

"The only thing I'll tell you that's bittersweet because these two guys, people like them, don't come along very often," Miller said. "In Aaron's case, it's far too short. You feel like you're just getting started and then you wave goodbye. And that's the right decision for him.

"I think in both cases, it made sense for them to leave."

The decision was a little easier for Gordon, who is projected to be a lottery pick in the June 26 draft. The Pac-12 freshman of the year averaged 12.4 points, eight rebounds and a block per contest in his lone collegiate season.

Gordon, who proved to be one of the more versatile defenders in college basketball last season, said he is fulfilling a dream he's had since the first grade.

"This was a real difficult decision, just because I love the University of Arizona," Gordon said. "Everything about it - top to bottom. From the moment I stepped foot on campus, they took care of me. ... At the end of the day, I need to make the decision that's right for Aaron Gordon, just like before I came to Arizona.

"I've learned a lot. I understand the game of basketball better than I did the year previously."

The duo helped the program finish 33-5 - the second-highest single-season win total in school history - and advance to the Elite Eight.

But Arizona will be reloaded for 2014-15 with a class headlined by five-star forward Stanley Johnson, the No. 3-ranked overall prospect, according to Rivals.com.

Equally as noteworthy, freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski will be staying at Arizona for the upcoming season.

Hollis-Jefferson, who was widely projected to be a first-rounder if he left early, said his goal is to be a top-10 draft pick. Tarczewski said part of his decision was driven by the desire to reach the Final Four and compete for a national championship.

Check back with GOAZCATS.com later in the day for full coverage and reaction.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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