University of Texas big man Kai Jones declared for the 2021 NBA Draft on Wednesday just four days after his breakout sophomore season came to a screeching halt with a first-round loss to No. 14 seed Abilene Christian. Jones, a sophomore, said he will sign with an agent and forgo his remaining college eligibility.
"Since I can remember, having the chance to play in the National Basketball Association has been my dream," he said. "Growing up in the Bahamas, not many of my peers have had the opportunity that I have in front of me now, the ability to achieve those dreams."
Jones signed with Texas and Shaka Smart in 2019 as a four-star recruit after garnering offers from the likes of Arkansas, Baylor, Florida State, Arizona and a number of other major programs. But the top-50 recruit last season rarely saw time as a freshman. In 27 games, he made 10 starts and played fewer than 17 minutes per game.
As a sophomore this season, he exceeded expectations. Next to five-star incoming big man Greg Brown, Jones had a tough path to playing time. Yet as the season wore on, it was clear Jones, not Brown, was the more highly-regarded NBA prospect on Texas. He played in 26 games and averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while making 38.2% of his 3-point attempts.
In a February mock draft, I projected him to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 15 overall. Because this draft is especially thin with big men, and because Jones projects as a floor-spacing big with great athleticism, it's very easy to see how his stock could shoot up comfortably into the lottery by the time the draft rolls around.