Kyle Alexander of Tennessee tries to shoot over Nicolas Claxton of Georgia during the basketball game at Stegeman Coliseum on February 17, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
Photo: Mike Comer/Getty Images
Photo: Mike Comer/Getty Images

UGA’s Claxton has no regrets about leaving school early for NBA

Nicolas Claxton has no regrets about his decision to leave Georgia after two seasons in pursuit of the NBA.

And that’s after the grueling process of the scouting combine followed by crisscrossing the country for individual team workouts. His 12th workout was with the Hawks on Saturday in advance of Thursday’s draft.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to leave school because of the guys coming in to Georgia,” Claxton said. “But at the end of the day, I have to do what’s best for me. I feel like keeping my name in the draft was best for me, and I feel like I will be reaping the rewards very soon.”

Claxton played two seasons at Georgia. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 13.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 31.6 minutes last season and was named All-SEC Second Team. He ranked 10th in the nation in blocked shots last season. Claxton referenced Georgia’s incoming freshman class that includes Anthony Edwards, the top recruit in the nation. Claxton said after conversations with Georgia coach Tom Crean, which continue weekly, he was ready to move on.

Claxton opened eyes at the NBA scouting combine in Chicago in May. He attributes that to his rise up draft boards. He is considered to be a mid to late first-round pick.

“Throughout the process, he told me how the interviews would be and in the combine they will try to shake you up a little bit,” Claxton said of Crean. “Just giving me advice, making sure I continue to play hard and keep my motor up. Now that I’m locked into the process, he’s been talking to a lot of teams about me.”

Claxton’s parents both attended Georgia. His father, Charles, played for the Bulldogs from 1992-95 and was All-SEC in 1993.

While the feedback has been good from NBA teams, according to Claxton, he said there is plenty more to learn.

“A lot of people like to call me a project, which if fine,” Claxton said. “When I get out there on the court, people will see my game. Teams see the player I can be.”

Claxton said he has kept an eye on the Hawks while being so close and admires the fast-paced style they play led by point guard Trae Young. He believes his defensive ability and his versatility would make him a good fit. He is working on improving the consistency of his jump shot and will continue to improve his strength.

The Hawks have six selections, including three in the first round (Nos. 8, 10 and 17) and three in the second round (Nos. 35, 41 and 44). The team held their final pre-draft workout Saturday, which included a private session with France’s Sekou Doumbouya and a visit from Indiana’s Romeo Langford.

“Definitely been a journey,” Claxton said of the process. “It’s a marathon. I’ve just been taking everything day by day. Giving it my all. Continuing to work hard through good workouts, through bad workouts. … It’s a blessing to be here. It’s five days to the draft. I’ll stay prayed up. I can’t wait.”

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