USC men’s basketball: Bennie Boatwright declares for draft, doesn’t hire agent

Forward Bennie Boatwright will declare for the NBA Draft but will not hire an agent, USC confirmed on Wednesday. The decision to forgo the hiring of an agent will allow Boatwright to test the waters of his current prospects in the NBA without forgoing his future eligibility as a college athlete.

Boatwright spent almost half of last season on the bench after spraining his MCL in an early December game against San Diego. After taking two months to heal from the knee injury, he roared back into the starting lineup for the Trojans, dropping 23 points in his return against Washington.

Although the injury kept him off the court for the first half of Pac-12 play, it did not keep Boatwright from contributing to his team. He finished the season averaging 27.6 points and 4.5 rebounds.

Most importantly, Boatwright provided a vital spark throughout the team’s NCAA tournament run. He dropped a career-high 24 points against Providence, leading his team to rally back from a 17-point deficit to knock out a victory in the redemption match up.

The following game, Boatwright contributed 14 points to help in a stunning upset over SMU to advance to the Round of 32. And although the Trojans fell to Baylor to end their time in the Big Dance, Boatwright notched 16 points to keep his team neck-and-neck until the end.

Though his team learned to live without him this season, Boatwright was a vital piece of the Trojans’ offense and defense when he returned to the court. His announcement comes on the heels of a similar declaration by redshirt sophomore guard Shaqquan Aaron, who will also enter this year’s draft but not hire of an agent.

The futures of Boatwright and fellow sophomore forward Chimezie Metu were the most unclear for Trojan fans following the NCAA tournament. Metu has yet to announce his intentions for next season, but is also a possibility to declare for the NBA draft despite retaining two more years of college eligibility to play for the Trojans.

Although Boatwright and Aaron have declared for the draft, both could still return to the Trojans’ squad for next season. Due to their decision to not hire an agent, both players retain NCAA eligibility. They will have until May 24 to withdraw from the draft if they choose to continue in college next season.Until then, they will test the waters for any prospective outlets in the NBA in order to make an informed decision about which path to take.

Without Boatwright, head coach Andy Enfield would face challenges in filling the forward position to make up for his playmaking abilities and physical strength down low. However, if none of the three sophomores in question — Boatwright, Aaron and Metu — leave for the draft, expectations will be high for the Trojans next season.

The days leading up until May 24 will be a telling time for the Trojans, and no matter which way Boatwright goes, the decisions of young players will determine how the team will rebuild into next season.