Tyler Honeycutt to enter NBA draft

UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt is leaving school and will enter the NBA draft, he said Monday in a conference call with reporters.

Honeycutt, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds for the Bruins last season and is projected to be drafted late in the first round or early in the second round of the June 23 NBA draft, according to ESPN.com's Chad Ford.

Honeycutt, 20, was wavering about leaving school after the Bruins were eliminated from the NCAA tournament by Florida on March 19 and said he would discuss the decision with people close to him.

"I think it's in my best interest to enter the draft," Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt said he would hire an agent, but he didn't yet have one picked out. Once he does, he will lose his college eligibility. Players who enter the NBA draft have until May 8 to withdraw and maintain their college eligibility, so long as they do not hire an agent.

Meanwhile, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that junior guard Malcolm Lee is slated to declare for the draft as well, but not hire an agent. The source said that the staff expects Lee will return to the Bruins next season.

UCLA coach Ben Howland said he was confident Honeycutt would be drafted in the first round.

"I just wish Tyler the very best," Howland said. "He did a great job for us these past few years. He made a big jump from the end of his freshman year until now.

"He feels it's best for him. This is what he wants to do, so I'm 100 percent supportive."

Among those who advised Honeycutt was Bort Escoto, his former coach at Sylmar High.

"I advised him that he needed to be absolutely ready and that if he had any doubts whatsoever he needed to go back to school," Escoto said.

Honeycutt is a long, athletic wing player who projects as a small forward. He has the ability to dribble and pass and can score from just about anywhere on the floor. He led the team with 55 three-point baskets.

He struggled at times with on-ball defense, but made up for it with an uncanny ability to recover and block shots from behind. He led the Pac-10 with 68 blocked shots. His overall stats were not all that eye-popping this year, but he had a 33-point, nine-rebound game at Kansas and had showed his all-around game with 16 points, five assists and six rebounds against Michigan State in an NCAA tournament game.

"It won't surprise me if he goes top 10 in the draft, not at all, because of his talent," Escoto said. "I know what he can do so if he goes seven or eight, it won't surprise me at all. As a matter of fact, it would probably surprise me if he went 20-30. That would surprise me. Because once people really see how talented he is, then they will understand my crazy comment."

Honeycutt could have continued attending classes while mulling over where he might land in the June draft, but he wants to focus on basketball in his bid to be a lottery pick.

"I'm going all out for it," he said. "I'm pretty high right now and this year considered being a weak draft is a good reason to leave."

The prospect of an NBA lockout doesn't bother him, either.

"I'm sure there's going to be one," he said. "No one is exactly sure how long."

Peter Yoon covers UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com. ESPN.com's Diamond Leung and The Associated Press contributed to this report.