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Isaiah Jackson, John Calipari comment on decision to test NBA Draft process

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Jackson is leaving the door slightly ajar for a possible return.

Isaiah Jackson UK Athletics

Kentucky Wildcats forward Isaiah Jackson has officially declared for the 2021 NBA Draft, the school announced Wednesday.

However, Jackson said he will not sign with an agent and will keep his options open as he tests the NBA waters. He can sign with an NCAA-certified agent to receive feedback and still return to school if he so chooses.

There is no current deadline for Jackson to make a final decision as to whether to remain in the draft or return to Kentucky. Due to restructured NBA and NCAA schedules from the COVID-19 pandemic, dates for the 2021 NBA Draft, NBA Combine and NCAA eligibility deadlines have not been set yet.

“Playing in the NBA has always been a dream of mine growing up,” Jackson said in a press release. “It has always been something that, with the right opportunity, I would pursue. I would like to thank God for giving me the strength and ability to play the game I truly love. I want to thank my family and my friends for being there for me through thick and thin. And I would also like to thank Coach Cal, the staff, and the Big Blue Nation for the privilege to play at Kentucky and for the opportunity to pursue this dream. No matter what I ultimately decide, this place will always hold a special place in my heart.

“With that being said, I will be entering the 2021 NBA Draft without an agent and testing the waters. I am looking forward to the process and seeing what my future holds. I appreciate all the support in making this decision and I want to thank everybody who has been with me since day one.”

Jackson is the first player from the 2020-21 Kentucky men’s basketball roster to announce his intentions to declare for the 2021 NBA Draft. Players can submit paperwork to receive evaluations from the NBA and participate – if invited – in the NBA Draft Combine.

“Isaiah made unbelievable strides to put himself in a position to test the waters,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said in a press release. “He grew throughout the year and became more confident on both ends of the floor. He has a tremendous ability as a defensive player and really grew and developed his offensive game as the season wore on. I am anxious to see how this process plays out for him. I wish him nothing but the best, and he and his family know they have my full support with whatever they decide. If he does come back, I will be really excited about coaching him, but I know it is in his best interest to pursue this opportunity and process.”

The freshman forward from Michigan averaged 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in 25 games with 18 starts. Over the last seven outings, he averaged 13.3 points and 6.9 boards per game and reached double-figure scoring in all but the last contest. Jackson recorded two double-doubles on the season, both of which came over the last seven games. He shot 63.3% from the floor during that span.

For his efforts, Jackson was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman and All-Defensive Teams.

We should still expect Jackson to remain in the draft when it’s all said and done, but it’s nice to hear he’s at keeping the option of returning to school open if he doesn’t get the feedback he’s hoping for.