Ann Arbor, Michigan — Ignas Brazdeikis, a Lithuanian Canadian forward for the Michigan Wolverines, released an announcement stating that he would officially stay in this year’s NBA draft. John Beilein, Michigan’s coach for the past 12 years, saw 10 of his players get picked in the NBA draft, seven of which were first-rounders, with two being top-10 selections. However, Brazdeikis, if he gets picked, will be Beilein’s first player to leave school after just one season. Naturally, even if Ignas stayed in the NCAA Basketball league, Beilein wouldn’t be his coach anymore, with the 66-year-old joining Cleveland Cavaliers as their head coach in May of this year.
Prior to the forward’s announcement, it was unclear what his future would be. Brazdeikis was clear about his intentions to stay in the draft, but he didn’t close his options for a return to Ann Arbor. However, in his announcement, the player went all out for the 2019 draft, forgoing his college eligibility.
Brazdeikis won the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award for season 2018–19, scoring 15,1 points per game. The 6-foot-7 forward will now join his (former) teammates Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole in the draft, as the Michigan trio hopes to hear their names called out on June 20 when the draft takes place.
In his statement, Brazdeikis didn’t forget to say “thank you” to the fans, saying that money signs, dunks, and unforgettable wins will always stay in his memory. Sports network ESPN sees Brazdeikis as a second-round pick, with the Sacramento Kings choosing him as the 40th overall selection. Sports Illustrated thinks he’ll end up as a new addition to the Boston Celtics, as the 50th pick overall.
Freshman Season Stats
Brazdeikis, who turned 20 in January this year, is of older age than most freshmen. Born in Kaunas, Lithuania, Ignas grew up in Canada and joined college basketball at an impressive stature of 215 pounds. It was clear to see right from the start that his upper body strength was one of his main assets. The forward started every game last season, which made him the first Michigan freshman to have done so since Derrick Walton Jr. in the season 2012–13.
He burst onto the scene in his third game when he scored 18 points against the defending champion Villanova. From that point on, Brazdeikis only grew in confidence. In his own words, every time he stepped on the court, the forward felt like the strongest player there. Two weeks later, he scored 24 points against North Carolina, grabbing the attention of opposition coaches and college basketball fans. The opposition fans often picked on the Lithuanian, mocking his money gestures and muscle flexing moves after strong finishes.
In his freshman season, Brazdeikis had a record of 46% shot conversion from the field, 39% for three, and 77 percent from the free-throw line. Furthermore, he averaged 5,4 rebounds per game, which was the second most for the Wolverines. During the season, Wisconsin proved to be an insuperable obstacle, as he scored just two points combined in both games. But apart from that blip, he was consistent throughout the season. In his final college game, Brazdeikis scored team-high 17 points.
Before the beginning of the previous season, the forward came to Michigan as a four-star recruit and the 40th overall rank in the class. He was a high recruit for Beilein standards, but he had four higher-ranked players before. None of them went pro after their freshman year.