Jordan Clarkson leaving Missouri to pursue the NBA

Jordan Clarkson averaged nearly 18 points and was Second Team All-SEC. (USATSI)

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Missouri announced on Monday that star junior guard Jordan Clarkson will leave school and pursue the NBA.

Clarkson had one of the better seasons in the SEC this past season, averaging 17.5 points and 3.4 assists. He was a top-10 player in the league in scoring, assists, minutes, assist-to-turnover ratio and field-goal percentage.

"It's been a challenging few months for Jordan and his family, but I am so proud of the way he has handled adversity and has really grown, not just as a basketball player, but as a young man," Tigers coach Frank Haith said in a statement.

Haith is referring to the devastating news that Clarkson's father was diagnosed with cancer this past season. And the team endured even more struggles, as that news came a little more than a month after Jabari Brown found out his dad was stricken with the disease.

Clarkson opted to to write a letter to Missouri fans explaning his decision. This isn't unheard, but it was so heartfelt, I wanted to share.

Good Morning,

I'd like to begin by saying how humbled and appreciative I am to the University of Missouri and the City of Columbia for the warm reception I received in 2012, when I arrived after transferring from the University of Tulsa. Everyone associated with Mizzou, the coaches, my teammates, administration and fans welcomed me in with open arms and afforded me the opportunity to continue my dream of getting an education and playing basketball at such a prestigious university.

Words simply cannot express the gratitude I feel towards Coach Haith for bringing me into this program and helping me leave this spring as a University of Missouri graduate! I also want to thank my teammates for the warm reception I received when I first arrived. I hope they were able to learn as much from me as I learned from them. It's a fantastic group of guys and a group that will make Tiger Nation proud, not only with their play on the court, but their love for our great university.

With that being said, I wanted to write this letter to our fans to let you know personally that I have decided to forgo my senior year at Missouri and enter the 2014 NBA draft. It wasn't an easy decision. I have so much respect for everyone here and the impact you have made on my life has been immense. However, it is a decision that I've thought through and discussed with my family on numerous occasions. Having their full support makes this decision much easier. I will miss the University of Missouri, the coaching staff, basketball program and Columbia. Mizzou will always have a special place in my heart and I will always cherish the memories, maturity and the experiences I gained while playing basketball for Mizzou.

Sincerely, Jordan Clarkson

Clarkson is set to graduate this spring, according to the school release.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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