Kentucky's Australian 7-foot sophomore center Isaac Humphries is turning professional.
In a statement released by the Wildcats, Humphries has decided to hire an agent and pursue his professional playing options in the NBA and internationally.
As the youngest sophomore in NCAA Division I college basketball, the 19-year old spoke warmly of his experience at one of the best basketball programs in the nation.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the Big Blue Nation for its unwavering support,” Humphries said. “Coming from Australia, I had no idea what to expect when I got to Kentucky, but you made me one of your own. Your support and passion over the last two years has been unbelievable. I can’t thank you enough for making me feel at home."
Humphries' rise to prominence came at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship in Dubai where Australian earned the silver medal behind the USA. The big man averaged an impressive 18.9 points (58% FG, 83% FT), 11.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 3.3 blocks per game for his country – highlighted by his record-setting 41 point effort against Canada. He arrived in Kentucky after spending a season with La Lumiere via the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence, being ranked the #41 prospect in the 2016 ESPN player rankings.
The 2016-17 season finished with Kentucky falling to eventual national champions North Carolina in the Elite Eight. However while the Wildcats lost that game, Humphries played his best game of his collegiate career - posting a career-best 12 points with 5 rebounds in an impressive display on the big stage that resulted in being named to the All-South Region Team. While Humphries' last individual performance was his best output, it ended a difficult season for the second year center, averaging just 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in just 8.3 minutes per game.
Humphries was open in explaining the difficult decision he made to turn pro, a decision made after a season that saw him receive a lack of playing opportunities.
“This decision didn’t come easily for me. My goal has always been to play professionally. There is no better place to prepare you to take that step than the University of Kentucky. Over the last two years, thanks to Coach Cal and the coaching staff, I’ve gotten so much better and improved my game. I believe I have a lot more I can do, but I also believe that the time for me to take the next step is now.
“At the end of the day I have to do what I believe is best for myself and my family. I know turning pro is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I understand that these next few weeks and months with the pre-draft process is going to take a lot of hard work and maybe some realistic truths. But, because of what I’ve learned at Kentucky and the support I have from my family and this school, I also feel like I’m ready to face those challenges and that I’m prepared for whatever is next and wherever that may take me.
“It’s going to be difficult not playing at Kentucky next season and I’m going to miss everything that comes with being a Wildcat. I’ll miss my brothers. The friends I have made here and the relationships I have formed will last a lifetime. During such a developing time of my life, it was a true blessing to be surrounded by such incredible people, fans, and teammates who were always looking out for me and always had my back.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari was full of praise for his little-used big man from New South Wales.
"This was a difficult decision for Isaac but one that he and his mom put a lot of thought into,” head coach John Calipari said.
“Isaac has gotten so much better in his two seasons here and I believe he’s only begun to scratch the surface of his true potential. I absolutely understand and fully support his decision and I will do whatever I can to help his dreams come true. You’re talking about a 7-footer who can shoot and can rebound. That has value anywhere in the world. He’s also just 19 years old, the youngest sophomore in the country this past season. Everyone forgets how young he is and how much he’s going to continue to grow and develop. He’s only going to get better and better. My belief is what you saw at the end of this season is just the beginning of his pro career.”
Back in December, Humphries made it clear what his goal was - playing in the NBA. With great size, good touch around the basket, and with an ability to hit spot-up jumpers, there is a place in the NBA for a player of his skillset. In turning professional, he has taken the next step to turning his NBA dream into reality.
Humphries' decision to leave college early to turn pro follows that of fellow Australian Tom Wilson earlier in the season. Wilson joined Harry Froling in leaving SMU, however the latter transferred to Marquette while Wilson, after originally deciding to transfer to Boise State, decided to turn professional and is now currently playing with the Melbourne Tigers in the SEABL.
Louisville's dynamic wing Deng Adel has also decided to declare for the 2017 NBA Draft as an early entrant, yet Adel is 'testing the waters' and has not yet hired an agent and is likely to return to the Cardinals for his junior year. After leaving UCLA to turn professional after the 2015/16 season, Jonah Bolden emerged as a rising star with FMP Belgrade in the Adriatic League this past season and is a projected early second round NBA Draft pick by DraftExpress.