Ohio State: Keita Bates-Diop confirms he will enter NBA draft

Keita Bates-Diop declared for the NBA draft on Monday, hoping to parlay a breakout junior season into a pro career next season.

He averaged 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and was named Big Ten Player of the Year as the Buckeyes vastly surpassed preseason expectations, finishing second in the Big Ten and earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament.

“I’ve had a lot of teammates here, but especially this past season has been the best year of my basketball career because nobody thought we could do what we did," he said. "We came together with the coaching staff and became a family this year.”

Bates-Diop came to Ohio State as a consensus four-star recruit from Normal, Ill., but he did not have a major impact until his fourth year in the program.

He played sparingly as a freshman before averaging 11.8 points per game as a sophomore. Injuries limited him to nine games in 2016-17, leading to a medical redshirt.

The 6-foot-7, 235-pounder appeared at No. 52 on a recently published list of NBA prospects from SI.com, but ESPN has him in its top 20.

He said he began thinking entering the 2018 draft was a possibility later in the Big Ten season and confirmed having already received his degree in economics made the decision eaiser.

"It’s a relief just because i’ve been thinking about it a lot since we lost (to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament," he said. "It’s been weighing on me."

His departure means the Buckeyes will be without three of their top five scorers next season.

Forward Jae’Sean Tate (12.3 points, 6.2 rebounds per game) and guard Kam Williams (9.0 ppg.) have used up their eligibility but point guard C.J. Jackson (12.6 ppg., 3.9 assists per game) and center Kaleb Wesson (10.2 ppg. 4.9 rebounds per game) are expected back.

Coach Chris Holtmann has signed four players for next season, including Versailles guard Justin Ahrens, and he could add at least one more freshman or transfer to the roster.

OSU's 2018 class is ranked 24th in the country by 247Sports.

Also headed to Columbus next season are Hudson City (N.J.) Catholic guard Luther Muhammad, Houston (Texas) Kindaid School forward Jaedon LeDee and Chatsworth (Ca.) Sierra Canyon combo guard Duane Washington.

Ahrens said in January that Holtmann had told his class to prepare to be able to contribute right away.

“He wants us to come in and make an immediate impact,” Ahrens said. “He’s willing to make the leap, to have us freshmen make mistakes and have it pay off in years to come.”

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