The Bruins’ five-star freshman says goodbye to Westwood and is on his way to the professional ranks.
After just one year of UCLA men’s basketball, freshman guard / forward Peyton Watson will declare his 2022 NBA Draft and will hire an agent, the 6-foot-8 wing announced on Instagram and Twitter Tuesday morning. While players signing with NCAA-certified agents will be allowed to return to school, a statement from UCLA Athletics said Watson would waive the remainder of his eligibility for college.
Watson averaged 3.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.6 blocks and 0.6 steals per game. match in 32 matches from the bench for the Bruins.
Coach Mick Cronin issued a statement Tuesday morning sending Watson off to the NBA.
“We’re very excited about Peyton,” Cronin said. “We all know he has a huge advantage as a basketball player and we were lucky to have him in Westwood. Peyton came to work every day with a great attitude and a burning desire to improve himself as a player. Peyton is a great player. “teammate and a wonderful person, and we thank him for choosing UCLA. He will always be part of the Bruin family. We look forward to seeing him and rooting him as a professional for many years to come.”
Watson was part of the 2021 recruiting class along with guard Will McClendon, and committed to the Bruins in July 2020. Because of guard Daishen Nix, who left UCLA in favor of a G League contract, Long Beach Poly (CA) – product the first five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American from the Mick Cronin era.
The athletic rim protector played a reduced role compared to other high-ranking freshmen across the country, but still appeared in 32 out of 35 games for UCLA in a bench role.
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Since his arrival in Westwood, Watson had often been projected into NBA mock drafts, signaling the professional potential he had while on the roster. The only new mock draft that has gotten Watson off the board is The Athletics Sam Vecenies update on April 1, where Watson goes to the Charlotte Hornets as No. 44 overall.
Although a starting role was not available for the 2021-2022 season, Watson showed his potential in double-digit scoring performances against Bellarmine, Oregon and Cal, in addition to several prominent moments as a defensive player.
In all three rounds of the NCAA Tournament in which the Bruins participated, Watson most often appeared in UCLA’s victory in the second round over Saint Mary’s, where he scored two points in 10 minutes of action.
With Watson’s departure for the NBA, the Bruins now have a scholarship fewer on the book for next season. Guard / forward Jake Kyman entered the transfer portal on March 30 and was officially transferred to the University of Wyoming on April 10, making it two fellow players who left the program two weeks into the offseason.
However, three freshmen – guard Amari Bailey, center Adem Bona and point guard Dylan Andrews – are ready to join the team, so another legacy player will have to leave for UCLA to fall below the NCAA sanctioned limit.
Guards Jules Bernard and David Singleton as well as striker Cody Riley participated in the Senior Day activities and were honored at the Pauley Pavilion track. All three UCLA veterans have an additional year of eligibility and may return. Cronin had previously suggested that Singleton should return and join a bachelor’s program, but nothing has been set in stone yet with regard to any of their future.
The Bruins are also still awaiting decisions from guard / striker Jaime Jaquez Jr. and guard Johnny Juzang, the latter of whom declared after the 2020-2021 campaign before returning to UCLA. Jaquez commented on Watson’s Instagram post, saying “Go get it” with some blue and gold hearts.
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