Los Angeles (AFP) - Australian prospect Isaac Humphries declared for the NBA Draft on Wednesday, opting to skip his final two years at the University of Kentucky to pursue his dream of professional basketball.
The 19-year-old 7ft (2.1m) tall power forward confirmed his plans to turn pro in a statement, just weeks after narrowly failing to guide Kentucky to the Final Four of US college basketball's national championship.
"This decision didn't come easily for me. My goal has always been to play professionally," Humphries said. "I believe I have a lot more I can do, but I also believe that the time for me to take the next step is now."
Humphries scored a career-high 12 points from the bench in his final collegiate game for Kentucky, an Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.
The teenager from Sydney said his stint at Kentucky had prepared him for the demands of the professional game.
"At the end of the day I have to do what I believe is best for myself and my family. I know turning pro is going to be the hardest thing I've ever done," he said.
"I understand that these next few weeks and months with the pre-draft process is going to take a lot of hard work and maybe some realistic truths.
"But, because of what I've learned at Kentucky and the support I have from my family and this school, I also feel like I'm ready to face those challenges and that I'm prepared for whatever is next and wherever that may take me."
Kentucky coach John Calipari backed Humphries' decision and said he expected the Aussie youngster to thrive in the professional game.
"I believe he's only begun to scratch the surface of his true potential," Calipari said.
"I absolutely understand and fully support his decision and I will do whatever I can to help his dreams come true. You're talking about a 7-footer who can shoot and can rebound. That has value anywhere in the world.
"He's also just 19 years old, the youngest sophomore in the country this past season. Everyone forgets how young he is and how much he's going to continue to grow and develop.
"He's only going to get better and better. My belief is what you saw at the end of this season is just the beginning of his pro career."