Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to draft

Updated: April 15, 2013, 10:25 PM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

ATHENS, Ga. -- Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope announced Monday that he plans to skip his final two seasons at Georgia in order to enter the NBA draft.

Caldwell-Pope already has decided to hire an agent, removing any possibility of returning for his junior year. ESPN's Chad Ford rates Caldwell-Pope as the No. 21 prospect overall and No. 6 shooting guard in the draft and projects him as a mid-first-round pick.

"I want to thank the University of Georgia for all it has done for me. I want to thank my coaches, teammates and fans for the love and support," Caldwell-Pope said in a statement released by the school.

Caldwell-Pope this season became the first Georgia player to win SEC player of the year honors since Dominique Wilkins in 1981. He finished second in the conference in scoring (18.5 PPG) and led Georgia in scoring, rebounding, steals, minutes played, field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws made.

Georgia finished 15-17 (9-9 SEC) after a dismal start to the 2012-13 season. The Bulldogs, with a roster loaded with freshmen and sophomores, seemed ready to contend for an NCAA tournament berth if Caldwell-Pope returned for next season.

Now without his leading player, Georgia coach Mark Fox must hope for improved consistency out of freshmen who stepped into the Bulldogs' rotation this season such as point guard Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines (Caldwell-Pope's backup at shooting guard) and small forward Brandon Morris if the Bulldogs are to make just their second tournament appearance in Fox's five seasons as coach.

"It's been a pleasure to coach Kentavious and to see him grow as both a player and a person," Fox said. "I wish him nothing but success as he pursues his dreams. He will always be a part of the Georgia family."