UCLA basketball’s season didn’t end quite how it wanted. The Bruins fell to Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, bowing out of the NCAA Tournament after Bulldogs guard Julian Strawther hit a deep go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds. Would that pivotal play have gone differently if Jaylen Clark was available for UCLA? There’s still a chance the Bruins find out just how far they can go in March with Clark back in the fold.
The newly minted national Defensive Player of the Year pushed back on expectations Sunday he’d enter the NBA draft after suffering a season-ending injury in early March, telling reporters he’s “keeping his options open” as the offseason begins.
“Jaylen Clark told Andy Katz he’s keeping his options open and could return to college,” Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times tweeted on Sunday.
Clark tore his Achilles tendon in UCLA’s regular season finale on March 4th, sidelining him for the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments. The Bruins fared surprisingly well without him, losing to Arizona by two in the Pac-12 Tournament finale then advancing to the Sweet 16 before Gonzaga ended their dreams of a national title.
Clark was named Naismith Defensive Player of the Year on Sunday, no surprise for a player who averaged 2.6 steals per game and led the Pac-12 in defensive rating. The 6’5 wing declared for the 2023 NBA Draft earlier this week, but later clarified on YouTube that he’s still maintaining his NCAA eligibility by not signing with an agent.
Clark also told reporters on Sunday that in a best-case scenario, he could be playing again by December or January—whether with the Bruins or in the NBA.
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