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Luke Kennard declares for NBA Draft after standout sophomore campaign

<p>Kennard joins Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles in declaring for the NBA Draft.&nbsp;</p>

Kennard joins Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles in declaring for the NBA Draft. 

With two rookies joining the ranks of Duke one-and-done freshmen recently, the Blue Devils will now have to try prepare for next season without their top scorer as well.

Following a season in which he earned second-team All-American and unanimous first-team All-ACC honors, sophomore Luke Kennard became the third member of this year's squad to declare for the NBA draft Thursday afternoon, following freshmen Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles. The Franklin, Ohio, native made a huge leap forward in his sophomore campaign after an inconsistent freshman year and put together one of the most prolific single-season scoring campaigns in program history.

Kennard is expected to hire an agent and is projected as a mid-to-late first round pick in most mock drafts. His decision means that this is the third time since 1999 and second time in three years at least three Blue Devils have entered the NBA Draft early.

“After considerable reflection, prayer and consultation with my family and coaches, I have decided to take the next step in pursuing my basketball dreams by entering the NBA Draft,” Kennard said in a release. “Being a member of the Duke basketball brotherhood is always going to be special to me. I have nothing but love and respect for everyone in the Duke program. I want to thank my coaches, teammates, the best fans in the game and everyone in Franklin for being by my side every step of this journey. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but I’m confident that I’m ready and have a great foundation for success at the NBA level.”

Kennard's season was punctuated by a signature 34-point performance at Wake Forest in January when he went 10-for-10 from the floor in the second half and drained the game-winning 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left.

Despite shooting just 4-of-18 in the Blue Devils' two NCAA tournament games, he finished the year shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked second in the ACC. The 6-foot-5 guard also finished second in the conference in scoring at 19.5 points per game, and he finishes his Duke career with an 86.7 percent mark from the charity stripe that is second only to J.J. Redick in Blue Devil history.

As Duke was plagued by injuries and a lack of continuity throughout the season, Kennard was one of two players, along with senior Matt Jones, to play in all 37 games. He was the Blue Devils' most consistent player all year and logged the third-most minutes in the ACC at 35.5 per contest.

“I’ve loved coaching Luke and having he and his family in our program,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said in the release. “Luke’s skill set is such a perfect fit for the way the NBA game has evolved and we’re all excited to see him flourish at the next level. He is a wonderful person who will immediately be an asset to an NBA team.”

Kennard was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and was not expected to be a starter this year, but his breakout season has him among the most touted scoring guards in this draft class.

With Kennard gone, Duke now awaits junior Grayson Allen's decision. Allen is projected to be a second-round NBA Draft pick after a tough 2016-17 season and is on track to have completed almost all of his degree requirements next month.

If Allen joins Kennard, Tatum and Giles in the draft, Krzyzewski’s program will have lost eight of its 14 scholarships and 83.1 percent of its scoring from last season.

The Blue Devils have signed five-star forward Wendell Carter, five-star guard Gary Trent Jr. and four-star guard Alex O’Connell for next season. Five-star point guard Trevon Duval, five-star wing Kevin Knox and five-star center Mohamed Bamba are still on Duke’s radar.


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