Less than a month after he suffered a serious lower-leg injury that sidelined him for the season's final six games, UCLA's Jaylen Clark has declared for the NBA draft.
The junior guard who established himself as one of the nation's top defensive players made his announcement Wednesday on Instagram, declining to reveal whether he intended to plunge headlong into the June 22 draft or preserve his remaining eligibility.
Clark said last week there was no timetable for his return to the court after undergoing surgery three days following his injury early in the second half of the Bruins' final regular-season game against Arizona on March 4. His first game back with the team came during UCLA's West Region semifinal loss to Gonzaga, Clark watching from behind the bench with his right leg resting on a scooter.
Clark's move to declare for the draft at a time when he's recovering from a significant injury is similar to that of a former UCLA teammate. Chris Smith declared for the 2021 draft while rehabilitating a torn knee ligament, going undrafted before signing a two-way contract with the Detroit Pistons and later suffering another knee injury.
The 6-foot-5 Clark is an enticing prospect because of the relentlessness that made him the Pac-12 and National Association of Basketball Coaches defensive player of the year. After becoming a full-time starter for the first time this season, Clark averaged 13 points, six rebounds and a Pac-12-best 2.6 steals per game.
Among his highlights were a steal and breakaway dunk to help finish off Kentucky at Madison Square Garden and a second-chance 3-pointer in the final seconds to lift the Bruins over rival USC at Pauley Pavilion.
Clark said last week that he was ahead of schedule in his recovery.
"It's been great," he said. "I ain't in no pain, I can get up and do everything."
Other Bruins are also facing decisions about their future. Senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. is expected to leave after becoming the Pac-12 player of the year and freshman guard Amari Bailey could also depart for the NBA after averaging 17.3 points during his final six games of the 2022-23 season. Redshirt senior point guard Tyger Campbell has not said whether he will return for the extra season of eligibility granted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Freshman center Adem Bona also must decide whether he will leave or return to rehabilitate his shoulder injury and play another season at UCLA before turning professional.