Sophomore Isaac Humphries, the 7-footer from Sydney, Australia, who showed flashes of potential off the bench for Kentucky, announced Wednesday he will be leaving UK to pursue a professional basketball career. He plans to sign with an agent.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the Big Blue Nation for its unwavering support,” Humphries said in a UK news release. “Coming from Australia, I had no idea what to expect when I got to Kentucky, but you made me one of your own. Your support and passion over the last two years has been unbelievable. I can’t thank you enough for making me feel at home.”
Humphries’ departure is the fifth by an underclassman since season’s end. Freshmen Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox are projected as lottery picks in the June 22 NBA Draft. Freshman center Bam Adebayo, who Humphries spelled as a backup, has been projected as no better than a late first-rounder since his announcement. Fellow sophomore Isaiah Briscoe also announced his departure last week and is not projected to be drafted, according to analysts that include DraftExpress.com. DraftExpress ranks Humphries as the 35th-best sophomore prospect, but does not rank him among its top 100 pro prospects.
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Adebayo is the only player among that group who has not announced plans to hire an agent, meaning he has until midnight on May 23 to withdraw his name from draft consideration and remain at UK.
“I absolutely understand and fully support Isaac’s decision and I will do whatever I can to help his dreams come true,” Kentucky Coach John Calipari said on Twitter shortly after the announcement. “You’re talking about a 7-footer who can shoot and can rebound. That has value anywhere in the world.”
Humphries, who is just 19 years old, averaged 8.3 minutes, scored 2.8 points and grabbed 2.8 rebounds in limited opportunities behind Adebayo. If he signs with an agent, his collegiate career would be over. His pro prospects are not limited to the NBA. He could also sign with a professional team back home in Australia.
“This decision didn’t come easily for me.” Humphries said. “My goal has always been to play professionally. There is no better place to prepare you to take that step than the University of Kentucky. Over the last two years, thanks to Coach Cal and the coaching staff, I’ve gotten so much better and improved my game. I believe I have a lot more I can do, but I also believe that the time for me to take the next step is now.”
For Humphries, playing time might have been difficult to come by again next season. It’s possible Adebayo will be back. Additionally, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard return to the front court. That group will be joined by signee Nick Richards, and UK is still pursuing big man Mohamed Bamba.
“At the end of the day I have to do what I believe is best for myself and my family. I know turning pro is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I understand that these next few weeks and months with the pre-draft process is going to take a lot of hard work and maybe some realistic truths. But, because of what I’ve learned at Kentucky and the support I have from my family and this school, I also feel like I’m ready to face those challenges and that I’m prepared for whatever is next and wherever that may take me.”
Humphries’ freshman season was highlighted by a six-point, 12-rebound performance at Texas A&M in a game that also saw him get a controversial technical foul for spiking the basketball after what could have been a game-clinching rebound in overtime. The Cats lost the game, but more emphasis was placed on Humphries’ effort than the call.
“He was celebrating. He was so happy,” Calipari said after that game of Humphries. “There was no disrespect to anybody. If that’s what they choose to call, what are you going to do?”
Kentucky struggled defensively at times this season, and finding a reliable backup to Adebayo became a concern. Humphries was expected to fill that role, but it never materialized as he rarely logged more than 13 minutes in a game.
“I don’t know what happened, “ Humphries said at season’s end of his struggles during the year, “but I just started to not play how I should have been. It had nothing to do with anybody else. I take all the (blame) for what happened. I lost my confidence — something just happened — and it took me awhile to get back up there.”
But when called upon in the NCAA Tournament, Humphries answered with his best performance.
He played a season-high 21 minutes in UK’s Elite Eight matchup with North Carolina and scored a career-high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. His eight points during a 10-2 run in the second half helped vault the Cats into the lead late in the game. The effort earned him a spot on the All-South Regional team.
“My belief is what you saw of Isaac at the end of this season is just the beginning of his pro career,” Calipari tweeted.
UK roster update
These players have either exhausted their college eligibility or have declared plans to turn pro and hire an agent:
G Isaiah Briscoe
G De’Aaron Fox
G Dominique Hawkins
F Isaac Humphries
G Malik Monk
G Mychal Mulder
F Derek Willis
These players were on the 2016-17 roster and have announced no change in status:
G Brad Calipari
G Jonny David
G Hamidou Diallo
F Wenyen Gabriel
F Sacha Killeya-Jones
G Dillon Pulliam
F Tai Wynyard
This player has declared plans to turn pro but not hire an agent, which means he is eligible to continue to play at Kentucky if he withdraws his name from the draft by midnight on May 23:
F Bam Adebayo
These players have signed with Kentucky:
G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
G Quade Green
C Nick Richards
F PJ Washington
These players have committed to Kentucky and are expected to sign soon:
G Jemarl Baker
F Jarred Vanderbilt
These players have received scholarship offers from Kentucky for next season but have not yet announced decisions:
C Mohamed Bamba
G Cameron Johnson
F Kevin Knox
G Mark Smith
‘One and Not Done’
What: “30 for 30” documentary featuring Kentucky Coach John Calipari
When: 9-11 p.m. Thursday