Justin Anderson declares for NBA Draft

Junior guard cites development as reason for departure

Virginia junior guard Justin Anderson took the nation by storm this past season. But surgery to repair a broken finger and an appendectomy procedure a month later derailed his season and perhaps Virginia’s hopes at a deep run in the NCAA tournament run after a disappointing season-ending loss against Michigan State.

And sadly for Cavalier fans, Anderson will not seek his return to form in collegiate basketball next season.

Tuesday evening at John Paul Jones Arena, Anderson announced in a joint press conference with coach Tony Bennett that he will forgo his senior season and declare for June’s NBA draft.

“It was a very difficult decision,” he said. “But after discussing it with my family and friends, I decided that I was ready to take the next step forward in my basketball career.”

The news comes after rampant speculation regarding Anderson’s future, especially after declining to comment on his NBA plans following Virginia’s NCAA tournament loss against the Spartans.

Anderson is projected to go anywhere from the middle to the end of the first round, which would give him a guaranteed contract at the next level.

The departure of Anderson, a second-team All-ACC honoree despite missing eight conference games, will be a big loss for Virginia next season.

“You have to be happy for the guy,” Bennett said. “He poured his heart and soul into building this program into what it has become, and he deserves this opportunity. Still though, we’re certainly going to miss his tenacity, hustle and knack for those game-changing plays.”

Anderson led the conference in three-point percentage before his injury, shooting at a clip of 48.4 percent. His improved jump shot was the primary reason he believed he was ready to compete professionally.

“Coach Bennett really helped me work on my shot, especially last offseason,” Anderson said. “He was one of the best to ever shoot it, and those changes he made in my release really paid off this season. To play at the next level, you have to be able to shoot. I feel I’m ready.”

Anderson’s loss disrupted the rhythm of the Cavalier offense down the stretch. While junior forward Evan Nolte filled in admirably, he could not match Anderson’s athleticism or aggressiveness.

Bennett expects freshman guard Marial Shayok and sophomore guard Darius Thompson – both of whom now have a year of experience in Bennett’s system – to play larger roles next season for Virginia, which expects to receive a preseason top-10 ranking.

“With Justin’s talents, we knew this was a possibility entering the season,” Bennett said. “We made sure to rotate a lot of young guys into the lineup so they could get that experience and be ready for next season. Obviously we’d love to have Justin back, but we’re very thankful for his services and we’re ready for our other dedicated players to fill the void.”

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