Arizona announced via press conference on Tuesday afternoon that freshman Aaron Gordon and junior Nick Johnson will leave school and pursue the NBA.
Both helped Arizona to a 2013-14 season in which the Wildcats held the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 poll for multiple weeks; U of A also earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament but fell in the Elite Eight to Wisconsin. They finished at 33-5.
Gordon is pegged at No. 6 or No. 7 in CBSSports.com's most recent mock drafts. Johnson is seen as a late first-rounder at best.
"Nick embodies all of the qualities you want in a player," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "He's made a meteoric improvement across the board in his time at Arizona and that stems from his unbelievable attitude."
"Without us doing the things we did this year, then I wouldn't be near where I am right now," Johnson said. "I took a few weeks, we looked at the facts ... and the last few days was when I started looking at everything and really started being confident in my decision."
The players said the challenge came in deciding between returning for another year and chasing a national title -- or going right now to pursue the lifelong lure and dream of reaching the NBA.
"Arizona is going to be successful at the highest level with or without me," Gordon said, adding, "I don't care" in regard to being drafted to a team that's had failures in recent years.
"I'm really going to flourish," Gordon said. "I think my game's going to expand."
We expected both of these players to leve, but in spite of that, Arizona's got so much coming in/back that we have them firmly at No. 2 in our Ridiculously Early Preseason Top 25 (and one). Miller, by the way, was asked about today, April 15, and the NCAA's deadline for players to declare for the draft.
"Obviously the sooner we can conclude, not only the better for them, but also for our program," Sean Miller said. "[April 15] is almost like a ploy. ... April 27 is the only day that matters."
The 27th is the NBA's deadline for underclassmen to declare their intentions for the draft.