The Dagger - NCAAB

With several big-name underclassmen announcing their intentions to stay in school for another year over the past two weeks, it likely became too tempting for Texas freshman forward Tristan Thompson to not make the leap.

Thompson said not long after the Longhorns' season again ended with a controversial NCAA tourney loss to Arizona that he planned on coming back along with fellow Canadian frosh Cory Joseph for his sophomore season. Those plans changed on Thursday.

The Austin American Statesman reported that at last week's annual team banquet, he said that if he entered the draft, it would include immediately signing with an agent.

But it's hard to blame him for going, especially after seeing how the rest of the field of underclassmen has unfolded over the past few weeks.

Several mock drafts list Thompson as a likely mid-first round pick, and his lone season is Austin was enough to get scouts drooling. He was Texas's second-leading scorer (13.1 ppg), but drew much of his high praise for his tenacity as both a rebounder (7.8 rpg) and shot-blocker (2.4 bpg). Despite still being a bit raw on the offensive end, at 6-foot-9 with outstanding leaping ability, those two strengths should translate to the NBA smoothly.

The projected draft field is getting a tad top-heavy with American big men, including Arizona's Derrick Williams, Georgia's Trey Thompkins and Kansas's Morris twins. However, it could be argued that none of them have as much untapped potential or as high of a ceiling as Thompson.

Thompson's decision now makes for a nerve-racking couple of days for coach Rick Barnes and Longhorn fans, as sophomore gunner Jordan Hamilton remains as the biggest name to have not yet announced his stay-or-go intentions. The deadline to declare is on Sunday.

If Hamilton goes, it means that, along with the graduation of forward Gary Johnson, the Horns lose their top three scorers and rebounders from a team that won 28 games in 2010-11, leaving them both young and thin up front.

If he stays, combined with a strong incoming class that includes McDonald's All-American point guard Myck Kabongo, Texas is still likely a preseason Top-10 squad.

You'd have to imagine that Hamilton is leaning towards leaving, which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for Texas. They'd still be a solid Big 12 contender, but it would significantly lessen the pressure on a program and head coach that has endured rough late regular season stretches in each of the past two years and has only escaped the NCAA tournament's first weekend once in its last five appearances.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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