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Jayson Tatum of Duke declares for NBA draft after one season

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Duke Blue Devils

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks against the Troy Trojans in the first half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 17, 2017 in Greenville, South Carolina. Credit: Getty Images / Gregory Shamus

DURHAM, N.C. — Jayson Tatum is leaving Duke after his freshman season to enter the NBA draft.

The school announced Tatum’s widely expected decision Wednesday , and team spokesman Cory Walton said Tatum plans to hire an agent, which means he won’t have the option to return to his college team.

“I’m excited to take the next step in pursuing my lifelong dream of playing basketball at the highest possible level,” Tatum said.

Tatum was second on the team in both scoring (16.8 points) and rebounding (7.3). He scored in double figures in all but three games, and scored at least 15 in his last six.

He’s the 10th Duke player to turn pro after his freshman year, and the eighth since 2011 — a run that started with Kyrie Irving. The Blue Devils have had at least one one-and-done player on the roster in each of the past four seasons.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement that he “absolutely loved” coaching Tatum.

“His skill set and work ethic will make him a star in the NBA,” Krzyzewski said. “Whichever team selects him will be getting a humble, thoughtful and talented young man whom we are proud to call a member of the Duke basketball brotherhood.”

Tatum, a 6-foot-8 forward, was part of a highly touted Duke freshman class that also included forward Harry Giles, big man Marques Bolden and guard Frank Jackson — a group that drew comparisons to the Jahlil Okafor-Tyus Jones-Justise Winslow group two years ago that spent one season together on campus but delivered the program’s fifth national championship.

Duke started out ranked No. 1 but slipped during a season full of distractions that included injuries to three of those freshmen — including Tatum, who missed the first eight games with a sprained foot — as well as Grayson Allen’s one-game suspension and Krzyzewski’s monthlong absence to have back surgery.

Despite that, the Blue Devils became the first team to claim the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title by winning four games in four days, and entered the NCAA Tournament as a popular pick to reach the Final Four. They were knocked out by South Carolina in the second round, their earliest exit since the 2014 team was bounced in its tournament opener by Mercer.

Tatum was the first Duke player to announce his plans. Others who face decisions include Allen, Giles and leading scorer Luke Kennard.

New York Sports