Creighton vs. Nebraska basketball, 12/7

Nebraska guard Glynn Watson has his shot blocked by Creighton center Justin Patton in the second half Wednesday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

FRANCIS GARDLER, JOURNAL STAR

After a breakout rookie campaign, Big East freshman of the year Justin Patton is turning to the pros.

Patton, an Omaha North graduate, said on Wednesday he will apply for the NBA Draft and plans to sign with an agent, the school announced in a release.

“After much deliberation with my family and the Creighton coaching staff, I have decided the time is right to pursue my dream of playing professional basketball,” Patton said in the release. “I have loved every bit of my two years at Creighton. My teammates were unbelievable, the coaching staff helped me develop, and the fans have been so supportive of our program. Thank you to everyone … I will forever be a Bluejay!”

Patton and coach Greg McDermott scheduled a news conference for Thursday. By signing with an agent, Patton will not be able to back out of his decision to enter the draft.

The 7-foot Patton attracted little notice from recruiters coming out of high school two years ago, but by the middle of his redshirt freshman season he regularly drew at least a dozen pro scouts to each of his games. He averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. His 67.6-percent shooting from the field was the highest mark by a first-year player in NCAA history and was best in the Big East and second nationally.

Patton weighed just 204 pounds when he arrived at Creighton, the only school to offer him a scholarship by the summer between his junior and senior years of high school. He spent his redshirt year packing on weight and building strength, and he played at close to 230 pounds this season.

Scouts have lauded his ability to run the court, handle the ball and shoot the occasional three-pointer in addition to possessing a variety of post moves.

Patton is projected as a top-20 pick by Sports Illustrated (12th), and DraftExpress (17th), ESPN (18th) and CBS Sports (19th) in recent mock drafts.

The NBA Draft is June 22 in New York City.

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