Creighton star Zegarowski says he’s declaring for NBA draft

NCAA Men's Basketball

OMAHA, Neb. (AP)Marcus Zegarowski announced Tuesday he is leaving Creighton and declaring for the NBA draft, the biggest name in an exodus that started after the Bluejays’ run to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

Zegarowski was one of the top point guards in the nation, averaging a team-leading 15.8 points per game as a junior after being named the Big East preseason player of the year.

”I will be entering the 2021 NBA draft and look forward to continuing to work hard, chase my dreams and play the game I love,” Zegarowski tweeted Tuesday. ”Thank you Creighton for making my college experience so special. I will forever be a Bluejay.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA is allowing 2021 seniors to return next season.

Zegarowski is the fourth starter to announce his departure since Creighton lost to Gonzaga in the NCAA regional semifinals March 28. Senior guard Mitch Ballock has not announced his plans.

Sophomore center Christian Bishop plans to transfer and senior guard-forward Denzel Mahoney and senior forward Damien Jefferson say they will declare for the draft. Seldom-used sophomore reserve guard Jett Canfield also said he would transfer.

The four starters accounted for 67% of the scoring during a 22-9 season in which the Bluejays finished second to Villanova in the Big East, 19th in the final Associated Press Top 25 and made the Sweet 16 for the first time under the current tournament format.

Also leaving is assistant coach Paul Lusk, who was hired by Purdue this week.

Creighton’s attrition follows head coach Greg McDermott’s use of racially insensitive language during a locker-room talk following a Feb. 27 loss at Xavier. In urging team the team to stay united, McDermott acknowledged telling the players, ”I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation.”

Players publicly said they were upset by the ”plantation” analogy, which was evocative of slavery and the antebellum South. None of the players who are transferring or declaring for the draft mentioned it in their announcements.

Zegarowski publicly supported McDermott after the coach apologized and was suspended for one game by the university.

”I have spent many hours reflecting on the last three years,” Zegarowski tweeted Tuesday. ”All the hard hard work, the adversity and the grind led me to appreciate the incredible experience here at Creighton. The hard work led to our team making history. The adversity allowed me to appreciate and truly enjoy the success and grow in so many ways.”

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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