Nova's Mikal Bridges to bypass final season, enter NBA draft

All-American Mikal Bridges of Villanova will bypass his final year of eligibility and enter the NBA draft, he told ESPN. He is projected to be a lottery pick.

Bridges, a two-time national champion and the 2018 Julius Erving Award winner as the top small forward in college basketball, is considered one of the elite two-way players in this draft class. ESPN's Jonathan Givony has Bridges going 10th overall in his most recent mock draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-2 wingspan, Bridges is a prototypical multipositional prospect for the current NBA. His ability to defend multiple positions, shoot 3-pointers and slash to the basket has league executives suspecting he could be an even more impactful pro than collegian.

"I bring winning to your team," Bridges told ESPN. "I learned about that at Villanova, what is a winning, championship atmosphere and what you've got to do to achieve it. You have to always be locked in. Two championships in three years -- not a lot of people have done that."

Bridges, 21, was the most outstanding player of the Big East tournament and a force behind Villanova winning its second national title in three seasons. Villanova defeated Michigan for the NCAA championship this month.

"There's space in the NBA on the floor, and there's this move toward positionless basketball that I fit into," Bridges told ESPN. "I can shoot the ball. I can defend. I can move without the ball. I'm progressing in my game, getting better through work every day."

Bridges evolved from a redshirt freshman out of nearby Malvern, Pennsylvania, to a contributor on the 2016 national title team to a superstar who is perfectly positioned to make the leap into the draft lottery. As a junior, Bridges averaged 17.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 51 percent shooting, including 43.5 percent on 3-pointers.

"My success has been because of a lot of hard work and a lot of patience," Bridges told ESPN. "My first year in college, that was the longest time I ever sat out. Villanova and the coaches helped me to build a really strong work ethic. I didn't have as much of an ethic my freshman year, but I was pushed a lot by my coaches and that helped get me to become the player that I am."

Two NBA forwards who most intrigue Bridges are Oklahoma City's Paul George and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard.

"They weren't phenoms when they came out of school," Bridges said. "They weren't always on top and dominating. They were very low-key guys. They kept getting better and better."

Bridges will receive his undergraduate degree in May.