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Rasir Bolton becomes fifth and final Gonzaga starter to enter NBA Draft

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Rasir Bolton (45) brings the ball down the court against Georgia State Panthers guard Evan Johnson (0) during the first half of the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament on Thursday Mar 17, 2022, at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Rasir Bolton’s name was among those published on an list revealing the 283 players who’ve entered the 2022 NBA draft as early entry candidates.

All four of Bolton’s co-starters at Gonzaga had publicly announced their intentions to enter the NBA draft, but the veteran shooting guard hadn’t communicated his plans by the time the NBA released its list on Monday, two days after the league’s deadline for early entry to the draft.

On Tuesday morning Bolton confirmed he’d entered the NBA draft with a letter on both of his social media platforms, thanking his family, coaches and teammates at Gonzaga.

“To Zag Nation and the Spokane Community, I love you guys! I appreciate the love and support you all had for us as a team and for welcoming me with open arms, I am forever grateful!” Bolton wrote. “… I hope I made a difference.

“With that being said, playing in the NBA has been a dream of mine since I first picked up the ball. After talking it over with my family I’ve decided to declare for the 2022 NBA Draft.”

It’s unknown if Bolton has signed with a NCAA-certified agent, which would leave the door open for a return to Gonzaga next season. Bolton, who played one season at Penn State and two more at Iowa State before moving to Spokane, is eligible for a second season at Gonzaga due to a COVID-19 waiver granted to all players who competed in 2020-21.

The four other Gonzaga players who’ve submitted their name to the NBA draft included projected top-three pick Chet Holmgren, forward Drew Timme, wing Julian Strawther and point guard Andrew Nembhard. Timme and Strawther hired NCAA-certified agents, giving both players the option to return to Gonzaga in 2022-23.

Bolton transferred to Gonzaga last offseason, giving the Bulldogs efficient perimeter shooting at the two-guard position and someone who could have success within Mark Few’s fast-pace, up-tempo offense.

The Petersburg, Virginia, native earned All-West Coast Conference honorable mention after starting in all 32 games and averaging 11.2 points per game. Bolton led the Bulldogs with 64 3-pointers and 3-point percentage with a clip of 46%. He and Holmgren led the WCC, both making 50% of their 3-pointers in conference play.

Bolton made a season-high five 3-pointers in Gonzaga’s neutral-site win over then-No. 25 Texas Tech and scored a season-high 20 points in a home win over Pacific. He was second on the team in free-throw shooting, connecting on 87%, and made 50% of his total field goals on the season. Bolton also had 73 assists and 18 steals.

Unlike some of his Gonzaga teammates, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Bolton hasn’t appeared on most mock drafts or big boards and could have to find his way into the league through free agency.

Without Bolton and Nembhard in Gonzaga’s starting lineup, the Bulldogs will presumably turn to some combination of Nolan Hickman, Hunter Sallis and Dominick Harris in the backcourt next season. Few and his staff are also in the mix for high-major transfers, including Iowa State guard and reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Tyrese Hunter, who recently included Gonzaga in his top six.