Despite not being invited to the NBA Combine, USC forward Nikola Jovanovic will stay the course and remain in the NBA Draft pool, forgoing his right to return to college basketball.
The news was reported by CBS Sports reporter Jon Rothstein on Twitter:
“Playing in the NBA has been my dream and I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity to start my professional career,” Jovanovic said in a statement on Instagram. “I’m so blessed and thankful for the past 3 years that I have spent at USC. I have learned so much on and off the court and I’m glad that I will be getting my degree this summer.”
Last season, the 6-foot-11 Serbian forward averaged 12.1 points and led the Trojans in field goal percentage. He was a key player on the glass, totaling 237 rebounds.
With word that Jovanovic will not return, USC is now without six projected returners from the team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Andy Enfield. Jovanovic is the second Trojan to announce their decision of going pro, joining guard Julian Jacobs.
Then there were graduate transfers Darion Clark and Katin Reinhardt, along with traditional transfers Malik Marquetti and Malik Martin.
It’s Jovanovic and Jacobs that leave the biggest holes for the Trojans, as they were expected to be provide significant senior leadership in 2016-17. Not to mention, both were expected to return, despite declaring for the NBA Draft after the season.
SEE MORE: Julian Jacobs Leaps to the NBA
Neither participated in the combine, and neither are projected to actually be selected in the NBA Draft. As of Wednesday, both players were left off of DraftExpress.com’s Top 100 Prospects lists and appear to likely be headed to either Europe or the NBA’s Developmental League.
Without them, USC goes from being a serious contender in the Pac-12, to being a middle of the pack team needing to rely heavily on youngsters like Bennie Boatright and Chimezie Metu.