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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga transfer Michael Ajayi declares for NBA Draft while maintaining eligibility

Pepperdine Waves guard Michael Ajayi (1) dives for a loose ball against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first half of a college basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, Calif.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Michael Ajayi will be wearing a Gonzaga uniform if he elects to continue his college career in 2024-25, but the Pepperdine transfer is keeping all options open for the time being and announced Saturday he plans to declare for the NBA draft while maintaining his NCAA eligibility.

An All-West Coast Conference First Team selection, Ajayi announced plans to transfer to Gonzaga on March 26, just four days before the Bulldogs faced Purdue in the Sweet 16.

Ajayi’s name hasn’t appeared in the majority of mock drafts, but the 6-foot-7, 220-pound wing is considered to have high NBA upside and could be the top pro prospect on Gonzaga’s roster in 2024-25 if he elects to return to school.

Testing the draft waters allows Ajayi to gain feedback from NBA evaluators, work out with other professional prospects and potentially participate in the NBA G-League Elite Camp (May 11-12) or the NBA draft combine (May 12-19).

Players who enter the draft while maintaining their college eligibility have until 2 p.m. PT on June 16 to withdraw their names.

“To my family, thank you for always supporting and believing in me through this journey,” Ajayi tweeted. “Thank you to my parents for sacrificing so much for me and always guiding me on the right path. Thank you yo my sisters for always having my back through tough times.

“I also want to thank my teammates and coaches for welcoming me into the program and giving me confidence throughout the season. Thank you Coach (Lorenzo) Romar for taking a chance on me when no one would and making me a better person on and off the court.”

A variety of Gonzaga players have gone through the pre-draft process before announcing plans to return to school, including Anton Watson, Drew Timme and Julian Strawther in recent years.

Shortly after transferring to Gonzaga, former Eastern Washington wing Steele Venters announced he’d test NBA draft waters before eventually removing his name and returning to college.

Players are able to enter the NBA draft up to three times, but only twice while maintaining their college eligibility. Other Gonzaga players who’ve yet to exercise that option, but could announce plans to take their shots, include Ryan Nembhard, Graham Ike, Nolan Hickman and Ben Gregg.

During his lone season at Pepperdine, Ajayi posted a WCC-leading 17.2 points per game and finished second in rebounding at 9.9 boards per game. The Kent, Washington, native who started his college career at Pierce Community College made 46% of his shots from the field and 47% from the 3-point line.