May 13, 2000
UCLA's Jason Kapono, last season's leading scorer as a freshman, announced today it is his intention to "test the waters" with regard to entering the upcoming June 28 NBA Draft. At the same time, Kapono also indicated he is looking at all his options, including returning to UCLA in the fall for his sophomore year.
College players with eligibility remaining who want to declare early for the NBA draft must do so by May 14. There are two categories. Players who announce their early departure and sign with an agent are not eligible to return to college. But there is also an option for players to announce an early intention, but not sign with an agent. Those players can still attend NBA tryout camps and if they are not happy with their potential NBA selection, can withdraw from the draft by June 21 and return to their college teams.
Kapono, a 6-7, 199-pounder who was a McDonald's All-America as a senior prepster in 1999 at Artesia HS in Lakewood, indicated it is his intention to not sign with an agent, explore his NBA options, and still leave open the possibility of returning to UCLA in the fall.
"Playing in the NBA has been a lifelong dream of mine," Kapono said. "I feel that now is the appropriate time to explore that option. After the next few weeks, I will be able to accurately decide what will be my future plans. My first year of college and playing for Steve Lavin and the UCLA Bruins has been a great experience. That's why I have left open the door to return."
Bruin head coach Steve Lavin understands Kapono's decision. "Jason has been very deliberate in his approach to exploring his future in basketball at the next level," Lavin said. "Obviously, I'm happy he's left open the option of returning to UCLA. If he decides to enter the NBA Draft, it's because he will be a first-round selection. If he decides to come back to us at UCLA, we will welcome him with open arms."
In 1999-2000 as a true freshman, Kapono led the Bruins in scoring (16.0), was fourth in rebounding (4.4) and was one of only two Bruins (Earl Watson) to start all 33 games. His 16.0 scoring average was the highest by a freshman in the Pacific-10 last season and it was the second-highest single-season mark in UCLA freshman history, behind only Don MacLean's 18.6 in 1988-89. Kapono also set the UCLA single-season three-point (made) record with 82, breaking the old school record of 78, set by Tracy Murray in 1992. Kapono's 2000 honors included CBS SportsLine National Freshman of the Year and the Pac-10 co-Freshman of the Year.
MEDIA NOTE<-B>--Steve Lavin and Jason Kapono are unavailable for comment at this time. It is Kapono's request that when he reaches his final decision in the next few weeks, he will arrange a media opportunity through the UCLA Sports Information Office.