Drummond is the next one to go

UConn' Andre Drummond laughs from the bench during a preseason game against C.W. Post on Nov. 6, 2011.
UConn' Andre Drummond laughs from the bench during a preseason game against C.W. Post on Nov. 6, 2011. Jessica Hill/AP Photo

Freshman Andre Drummond enjoyed school, his teammates and being part of the UConn basketball family.

But the lure of the NBA and his projected top five draft status proved to be too much to resist.

Drummond plans to depart school early and enter the 2012 NBA Draft, according to a source and multiple reports. His official announcement is expected to come today.

He's the first UConn player to jump to the NBA after his freshman year. And he's the 15th Husky overall under coach Jim Calhoun to leave early, joining sophomore teammate Jeremy Lamb who declared his intentions Tuesday.

An athletic 6-foot-10, 270-pound center from Middletown, Drummond had an inconsistent season, averaging 10 points and team highs in rebounds (7.6) and blocks (2.7) per game while appearing in all 34 games, starting 30. He had 10 double-doubles, setting a Calhoun era record for a freshman.

Drummond was a defensive presence but limited offensively, scoring the bulk of his points off dunks. He converted 53.8 percent from the field but just 29.5 percent from the line.

NBA scouts love Drummond's potential and athleticism. Most mock drafts predict Drummond will be selected in the top five.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas talked about Drummond while in Storrs Feb. 25 for the Syracuse game, calling him an extraordinary talent with a bright future in NBA.

"He's going to play a long time in the NBA and he's going to make a lot of money," Bilas said. "Even if he doesn't improve all that much offensively, which he will - but say he doesn't - he still is a coveted piece in the NBA."

Drummond was a coveted recruit last summer when he shocked the college basketball world by announcing on his Twitter account in late August that he would attend UConn.

With the addition of Drummond, who spent two years at St. Thomas More in Oakdale, the defending national champion Huskies became a popular pick to return to the Final Four.

But Drummond and the Huskies suffered through bouts of inconsistency, finishing 20-14 overall. He showed flashes of brilliance, contributing 17 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks in a 71-69 loss to Syracuse Feb. 25. He earned All-Big East rookie team honors.

At other times, his game lacked focus and maturity. He was a non-factor in an NCAA tournament loss to Iowa State, contributing just two points, three rebounds and four blocks before fouling out.

Still, Drummond's draft status remained high. He made his decision to forgo his remaining eligibility after family members recently met with the UConn coaching staff.

The departure of Drummond and forward-center Alex Oriakhi, who is transferring, leaves the Huskies short-handed in the frontcourt next season. Counting Lamb, they will lose their top three rebounders.

Their most experienced returning frontcourt players will be 6-9 Tyler Olander and 6-8 Roscoe Smith, who averaged a combined 8.6 points and 7.3 rebounds.

Potential centers on the roster include 7-1 Enosch Wolf, who saw a total of 10 minutes of action last season, and 6-10 Michael Bradley, who did not play.

The UConn coaching staff's recruiting efforts are being hampered by a 2013 post-season ban and the uncertainty about Calhoun's future. He's yet to say whether he's returning next season.

g.keefe@theday.com

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