Azuolas Tubelis turned 21 last month, which means he can legally celebrate the next step in his basketball journey.
The 6-foot-11 forward declared for the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, likely putting an end to one of the best careers in UA history. Per Givony, Tubelis is “unlikely” to return to college basketball for next season.
In three seasons with the Wildcats, Tubelis averaged 15.6 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 57.3 percent, becoming the 15th player in school history to score 1,500 points. As a junior he led the Pac-12 Conference in scoring (19.8) and rebounding (9.1), something that hadn’t been done since 2005-06, and was a first-team all-conference selection as well as a consensus second-team All-American that included being on the Wooden Award All-American team.
Tubelis scored 694 points in the 2022-23 season, sixth-most in school history, including 40 against Oregon on Feb. 2 to fall one point shy of the UA McKale Center record. He averaged 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in winning Pac-12 Tournament MVP, then had 22 points in the Wildcats’ upset loss to Princeton in the NCAA tourney.
A native of Vilnius, Lithuania, Tubelis and his twin brother Tautvilas were part of Sean Miller’s final recruiting class at Arizona that also included Bennedict Mathurin, Dalen Terry and Kerr Kriisa. Tubelis averaged 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds as a freshman, scoring the game winner at ASU.
Tubelis will have to wow NBA scouts during pre-draft workouts, as he currently doesn’t appear in any mock drafts. The Athletic ranked him as the 74th-best prospect in the 2023 draft last month, while ESPN has him No. 68 overall.
Only 58 players will get drafted in June, so how Tubelis does at the NBA Draft combine next month will go a long way toward determining his pro prospects in the US. Playing overseas is also an option.
Tubelis’ departure means Arizona’s entire 2023-24 roster of scholarship players will be comprised of those current coach Tommy Lloyd recruited either out of high school or via the NCAA transfer portal. That’s assuming that Tautvilas Tubelis also departs the program now that his brother has moved on.