The Arizona Wildcats had three freshmen enter the NBA Draft this year, the latest in a long string of one-and-dones for the program. They have had 11 players go that route since Jerryd Bayless broke the mold in 2007-08, not including transfers.
Here is a look at how they have fared at the UA:
Jerryd Bayless (2007-08)
Arizona stats: 30 G, 35.7 MPG, 19.7 PPG, 4.0 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 45.8 FG%, 40.7 3PT%, 83.9 FT%
Accolades: All-Pac-12 Second Team, All-Pac-12 Freshman Team
How did his Arizona career go? A former top-20 recruit, Bayless was the first Wildcat to go pro after one college season. A gifted scorer and capable distributor, he was the centerpiece of an Arizona team that also featured a strong sophomore class of Chase Budinger, Nic Wise and Jordan Hill. However, the Pac-10 was absolutely loaded and Arizona went 19-15 overall and 8-10 in conference play, eventually losing to West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with interim head coach Kevin O’Neill at the helm.
Was his decision to leave Arizona a surprise? Other than the fact he was the first UA player to ever declare after one season, not really.
What happened next? Bayless was selected with the 11th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft and wound up spending 11 seasons in the league, mostly as a quality backup. For his career, he averaged 8.4 points and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3.
Josiah Turner (2011-12)
Arizona stats: 29 G, 24.9 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 41.7 FG%, 22.6 3PT%, 62.7 FT%
How did his Arizona career go? Turner was hoped to be the next great Arizona point guard, but played poorly and had off-the-court issues, being suspended for a game on Dec. 6, 2011, then being suspended for the rest of the season as the Wildcats headed to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament. Arizona failed to reach the NCAA Tournament and lost to Bucknell in the first round of NIT.
Was his decision to leave a surprise? Sort of. His decision to leave Arizona was expected after drug and alcohol problems led to his season-ending suspension. However, Turner was originally going to transfer to SMU, but wound up signing in Canada’s National Basketball League instead.
What happened next? Turner averaged 9.3 points and 3.9 assists in two seasons in the G League and 10.3 points and 5.1 assists per game in two seasons (2012-13 and 2015-16) in the NBL.
Grant Jerrett (2012-13)
Arizona stats: 34 G, 17.8 MPG, 5.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 40.9 FG%, 40.5 3PT%, 81.8 FT%
How did his Arizona career go? The 6-foot-10 forward was a key backup on a UA team that lost to 2-seed Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen. The Chino Hills native offered a unique skill set, being able to hit 3s and block shots, complementing frontcourt mates like Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and Solomon Hill nicely.
Was his decision a surprise? Yes. Even though Jerrett was a McDonald’s All-American, he only started two games at Arizona and put up pedestrian numbers, certainly not ones you’d expect for an NBA draft pick. However, if he returned he would have been battling Zeus, Ashley, and Aaron Gordon for minutes, which likely was a factor in his decision to leave. And with his high school pedigree, it was highly possible a team would take a flier on him.
What happened next? Jerrett was a second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, going 40th overall to the Portland Trail Blazers. He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on draft night and wound up appearing in eight NBA games in 2012-13. He then spent four years in the G League before heading overseas. He’s played in China, Japan and Germany.
Aaron Gordon (2013-14)
Arizona stats: 38 G, 12.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 49.5 FG%, 35.6 3PT%, 42.2 FT%
Accolades: All-Pac-12 First Team, All-Pac-12 Freshman Team, Pac-12 Freshman of the Year
How did his Arizona career go? Gordon was a top-5 recruit and lived up to his potential. The 6-foot-8 forward was an absolutely smothering defender—quick, strong, athletic and fundamentally sound, a huge reason the Wildcats posted the No. 1 defensive efficiency in the country by a mile in his lone season. Arizona rode that defensive mettle to a 33-5 record and Pac-12 championship but heartbreakingly lost by a point to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.
Was his decision to leave Arizona a surprise? No, it was expected for the start.
What happened next? Gordon was selected by the Orlando Magic with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Still known as a high-level defender, Gordon has spent all six seasons in Orlando, averaging 12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. His 3-point jumper has been below average, limiting his upside a bit. Gordon’s best season came in 2018-19 when he averaged 16.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game while shooting a career-best 34.9 percent from 3.
Stanley Johnson (2014-15)
Arizona stats: 38 G, 28.4 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 44.6 FG%, 37.1 3PT%, 74.2 FT%
Accolades: Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, First Team All-Pac-12, Julius Erving Award
How did his Arizona career go? Arizona lost Nick Johnson after the 2013-14 season but replaced him with Stanley Johnson, a McDonald’s All-American who was the No. 3 prospect in the 2014 recruiting class. He mostly lived up to it. Johnson scored at all three levels and was a plus defender. He was a little inconsistent, but on a team that featured vets like T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski, it wasn’t a big deal. The Wildcats reached the Elite Eight where they lost to Wisconsin. Again.
Was his decision to leave Arizona a surprise? No. He was widely projected to be a lottery pick.
What happened next? The Detroit Pistons selected Johnson with the eighth pick of the 2015 NBA Draft but he has been a bust so far, averaging 6.6 points over his career while posting some dismal shooting percentages (37% from the field, 29% from 3). Johnson is only 23, but he has not any sign of improvement in his career. Before the coronavirus put the 2019-20 season on hold, Johnson, now with the Toronto Raptors, was shooting 26% from the field.
Lauri Markkanen (2016-17)
Arizona stats: 37 G, 30.8 MPG, 15.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 0.5 BPG, 49.2 FG%, 42.3 3PT%, 83.5 FT%
Accolades: Pac-12 All-First Team, Pac-12 All-Freshman Team, Pac-12 All-Tournament Team
How did his Arizona career go? A sweet shooting 7-footer, Markkanen was a top-40 prospect out of Finland and exceeded expectations, immediately emerging as Arizona’s best player. He led the team in rebounding and was second in scoring, only behind Allonzo Trier. The Wildcats won their third Pac-12 title in four years, but Markkanen’s career ended on a sour note when he had nine points in a Sweet Sixteen loss to Xavier. He infamously did not take a shot in the final 10 minutes.
Was his decision to leave Arizona a surprise? No. While Markkanen reportedly planned to be at Arizona for two seasons, he played himself into the lottery.
What happened next? The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Markkanen with the seventh pick of the 2017 NBA Draft and traded him to the Chicago Bulls on draft night in a deal that included all-star shooting guard Jimmy Butler. Markkanen has been pretty productive with the Bulls, averaging 16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds over three seasons while shooting 43% from the field and 36% from 3.
Kobi Simmons (2016-17)
Arizona stats: 37 G, 23.5 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 39.5 FG%, 32.7 3PT%, 77.5 FT%
How did his Arizona career go? The Atlanta native was a five-star recruit and committed to Arizona without visiting. The bouncy swingman was one of Arizona’s top scorers until Allonzo Trier returned from a 19-game suspension, cutting into Simmons’ minutes and eventually bumping him out of the starting lineup. Simmons averaged just 12.6 minutes and 4.2 points over his last 13 games, shooting 33% from the field.
Was his decision to leave a surprise? Yes and no. While Simmons had a very slim chance of being drafted, it was believed from the moment he stepped on campus that he was going to be a one-and-done.
What happened next? Simmons, unsurprisingly, went undrafted and signed a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies as an undrafted free agent. He appeared in 32 games (12 starts) as a rookie and averaged 6.1 PPG on 42% shooting. Since then, he has been with the Cavaliers and Hornets, spending the last two seasons in the G League.
Deandre Ayton (2017-18)
Arizona stats: 35 G, 33.5 MPG, 20.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 61.2 FG%, 34.3 3PT%, 73.3 FT%
Accolades: Consensus All-American, Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Pac-12 Player of the Year, Karl Malone Award, All-Pac-12 Defensive Team, All-Pac-12 Freshman Team, Pac-12 Tournament MVP, All-Pac-12 First Team
How did his Arizona career go? Ayton was a top-5 prospect in the 2017 recruiting class and was arguably the most talented player to ever put on an Arizona uniform. He had a transcendent combination of size, skill and athleticism that made him the best big man in college basketball. Unfortunately, he was linked to an ESPN report that said Sean Miller paid him to $100,000 to attend Arizona. Its credibility has been shaky at best but it is still part of Ayton’s image. To make things worse, his Arizona team was ousted by Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, a disappointing ending to a hectic season.
Was his decision to leave Arizona a surprise? No. Stupid question.
What happened next? Ayton became the first Arizona to be the top pick in the NBA Draft when the Phoenix Suns selected him No. 1 overall over the likes of Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Ayton has put up big numbers with the Suns, averaging a double-double in both seasons with the club, but was suspended for 25 games in 2019-20 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, another hit to his image.
Josh Green (2019-20)
Arizona stats: 30 G, 30.9 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 42.4 FG%, 36.1 3PT%, 78.0 FT%
How did his Arizona career go? A McDonald’s All-American, Green started every game for the Wildcats aside from the two he missed because of a back injury. He was a tenacious defender, an active rebounder, and an inconsistent scorer. He was extremely dangerous in transition because of his athleticism but occasionally struggled in the halfcourt because of his inconsistent jump shot. While the Wildcats were having an underwhelming season before it was canceled by coronavirus, we’ll never know how they would have fared in the NCAA Tournament.
Was his decision to leave Arizona a surprise? No. He was expected to be a one-and-done the whole way and he had a good enough freshman season to be a first-round prospect.
Nico Mannion (2019-20)
Arizona stats: 32 G, 32.3 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 39.2 FG%, 32.7 3PT%, 79.7 FT%
Accolades: All-Pac-12 Second Team, All-Pac-12 Freshman Team
How did his Arizona career go? Another McDonald’s All-American, Mannion was the most ballyhooed of Arizona’s freshmen, but shooting struggles prevented him from living up to it. Even still, he is one of the best point guards in the Sean Miller era, one of the few who could score and distribute at a high level.
Was his decision to leave Arizona a surprise? No. While he didn’t have a great freshman season for his standards, he is still widely projected to be a first-round pick with a chance to be a lottery pick.
Zeke Nnaji (2019-20)
Arizona stats: 32 G, 30.7 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 57.0 FG%, 29.4 3PT%, 76.0 FT%
Accolades: Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, All-Pac-12 First Team, All-Pac-12 Freshman Team
How did his Arizona career go? The Minnesota native was the least heralded of Arizona’s star freshman trio, but wound up being the best player on the team. Playing with an unrelenting motor, Nnaji was a ferocious rebounder on both ends and a sure bet to score anytime he got the ball around the rim thanks to his athleticism and soft touch.
Was his decision to leave Arizona a surprise? Before the season, if you would have said he was going to be a one-and-done, most people probably would have disagreed with you. But with the way he played, he has a shot to sneak into the first round, an opportunity he felt was too good to pass up.