Former five-star recruit Isaiah Jackson declared for the NBA Draft on Friday and announced his plans to sign with an agent and forgo his remaining college eligibility, dealing Kentucky basketball a rare blow in an offseason that has been full of wins. Jackson was one of the true on-the-fence talents in the draft who was considering a second season in Lexington, but he’s turning pro and on the path to likely becoming a first-round selection later this summer.
“I’m happy for Isaiah and his family,” UK coach John Calipari said in a release. “Seeing his growth this season was amazing. His metrics are off the charts. Whoever drafts Isaiah is going to get an unbelievable defender who can guard multiple positions and protect the rim. Offensively, we saw his game really start to take off at the end of the season. The team that gets Isaiah is going to be surprised because he has only begun to scratch the surface on who he is going to be as a player. I can’t wait to see what he does at that next level. We wish him well.”
Jackson joins Brandon Boston as a potential first-round pick leaving UK after one season. The news comes on the heels of Calipari telling reporters on Friday morning that big man Keion Brooks is expected back on campus next week, likely signaling his return for next season and giving UK a key veteran piece to add to its 2021-22 roster. Brooks has until Sunday at midnight to declare for the draft and July 19 at 5 p.m. ET to withdraw. He has not publicly hinted which direction he’s leaning, but Calipari appears to have broken the news himself.
“This should be Keion (Brooks)’ year,” he said via the Courier-Journal. “… He’s that veteran that you’re saying, ‘You’ve got to be the center of this.’ But he’s got to do it. He’s got to fight.”
Kentucky has added four transfers ahead of next season in guards CJ Fredrick, Sahvir Wheeler and Kellan Grady, as well as big man Oscar Tshiebwe. It has also landed commitments from high school prospects TyTy Washington, Daimion Collins and Bryce Hopkins. No more roster additions are expected. That leaves Davion Mintz — who Calipari on several occasions mentioned as a possible third point guard for next season, despite him still entered in the NBA Draft — as the only remaining question mark.
“I’m excited about what we’re doing and the kind of team we’ve pieced together,” Calipari said. “But now we’ve got a lot of work to do.”