The Bruins’ five-star freshman is bidding farewell to Westwood and heading to the professional ranks.
After just one year with UCLA men’s basketball, freshman guard / forward Peyton Watson will be declaring for the 2022 NBA Draft and will hire an agent, the 6-foot-8 wing announced on Instagram and Twitter on Tuesday morning. While players who sign with NCAA certified agents are allowed to return to school, a statement provided by UCLA Athletics said Watson would be forgoing the rest of his college eligibility.
Watson averaged 3.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.6 blocks and 0.6 steals per game in 32 games off the bench for the Bruins.
Coach Mick Cronin released a statement on Tuesday morning, sending Watson off to the NBA.
“We are very excited for Peyton,” Cronin said. “We all know he has tremendous upside as a basketball player, and we were fortunate to have him in Westwood. Peyton came to work every day with a great attitude and a burning desire to improve himself as a player. Peyton is a great teammate and a wonderful person, and we thank him for choosing UCLA. He will always be a part of the Bruin family. We look forward to seeing him and rooting for him as a professional for many years to come. ”
Watson was part of the 2021 recruiting class alongside Will Will McClendon, committing to the Bruins in July 2020. Due to guard Daishen Nix abandoning UCLA in favor of a G League contract, the Long Beach Poly (CA) product was the first five- star recruit and McDonald’s All-American of the Mick Cronin era.
The athletic rim protector played a reduced role compared to other highly-ranked freshmen across the nation, but still appeared in 32 of 35 games for UCLA in a bench role.
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Since his arrival in Westwood, Watson had often been projected into NBA mock drafts, signaling the professional potential he carried while on the roster. The only recent mock draft that has Watson coming off the board is The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie’s update on April 1, with Watson going to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 44 overall.
Though a starting role was unavailable for the 2021-2022 season, Watson flashed his potential in double-digit scoring performances against Bellarmine, Oregon and Cal, in addition to several standout moments as a defender.
Featuring in all three rounds of the NCAA tournament the Bruins took part in, Watson appeared most often in UCLA’s second-round victory over Saint Mary’s, scoring two points in 10 minutes of action.
With Watson leaving for the NBA, the Bruins now have one fewer scholarships on the book for next season. Guard / forward Jake Kyman entered the transfer portal on March 30 and officially transferred to the University of Wyoming on April 10, making it two scholarship players departing the program two weeks into the offseason.
Three freshmen – guard Amari Bailey, center Adem Bona and point guard Dylan Andrews – are set to join the team, though, so one more scholarship player will have to leave in order for UCLA to get under the NCAA sanctioned limit.
Guards Jules Bernard and David Singleton, as well as forward Cody Riley, took part in Senior Day activities, being honored on the Pauley Pavilion court. All three UCLA veterans hold an extra year of eligibility and could return. Cronin had previously hinted toward Singleton returning and joining a graduate program, but nothing has been set in stone yet regarding either of their futures.
The Bruins are also still awaiting decisions from guard / forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. and guard Johnny Juzang, the latter of which declared following the 2020-2021 campaign before returning to UCLA. Jaquez commented on Watson’s Instagram announcement, saying “Go get it” with some blue and gold hearts.
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