Kentucky reserve big man Daniel Orton will enter the NBA Draft, his father, Larry, said Wednesday. His son will not hire an agent so he can retain the option of returning to UK next season, the elder Orton said.
Orton is expected to be one of several UK players entering the draft. Others include fellow freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, plus junior forward Patrick Patterson.
When UK played in the NCAA Tournament East Regional at Syracuse, N.Y., freshman guard Eric Bledsoe also expressed an interest in entering the draft.
According to NCAA rules, underclassmen have until May 8 to withdraw from the NBA Draft and retain their college eligibility.
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After the comments by Larry Orton became public knowledge, UK sent a text message quoting Daniel Orton as saying a final decision about entering the draft had not been made.
"I have not declared for the NBA Draft," Daniel Orton was quoted as saying. "I'm currently weighing my options and will make a decision prior to the deadline."
The possibility of returning to Kentucky to be the main man around the basket would not be a prime factor in his son's thinking, Larry Orton said.
"I don't see that as a big deal," the elder Orton said.
Before UK played against Cornell in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Daniel Orton spoke candidly about his interest in entering this year's NBA Draft.
"You know, if I'm a lottery pick, it's something I have to think about," he said. "That's for sure."
A recent mock draft by the Los Angeles Times projected five UK players among the top 13 picks. The Times had Wall being the first player taken, then Cousins at No. 8, Patrick Patterson at No. 10, Orton at No. 12 and Bledsoe at No. 13.
Orton implied that if he believes he'll be taken with one of the first 14 picks, the so-called lottery section of the first round, the financial implications would be impossible to ignore.
"More than anything, it's money," he said. "In this world, there's only one color that matters, and that's green.
"If that's an option, then that's real important. I've got to (explore) that option."
When asked whether being projected as a lottery pick would make the critical difference in his decision to stay in college or turn pro, Orton said, "Probably so. More than anything, I know I can stay another year and move up the draft board."
Because he played behind Cousins and Patterson, Orton did not play a lot. He did not play even 20 minutes in a game since Kentucky faced Cleveland State in Cancun. He did not score more than eight points in the last 24 games. In that span, he grabbed more than five rebounds in a game once (nine at Florida).
Orton suggested Kentucky's success this season elevated his draft profile.
"The position the team is in," Orton said. "... I do believe I've started playing real well. But more so than anything, the position the team is in."