Bulldogs’ Nicolas Claxton says he’s remaining in NBA draft

Georgia’s Nicolas Claxton made it infinitely clear what the parameters were for him remaining in college or staying in the NBA draft. Pretty much, it was first round or bust.

In announcing Tuesday night that he was staying in the draft and leaving the Bulldogs, the 6-foot-11 forward feels pretty certain that he’s going to get a first-round call.

“There are no assurances out there but, yeah, I’m told it’s a real strong possibility after the combine,” Claxton said by telephone from his home in Greenville, S.C., Tuesday night. “I went there and did my thing and there’s a lot of buzz around my name now. So we feel good about it.”

At the NBA combine in Chicago two weeks ago, Claxton blocked 9 shots in one game and also impressed scouts with his ability to handle the basketball. He weighed in at only 217 pounds.

Also exciting scouts was Claxton’s rate of improvement in college. Claxton led Georgia in scoring (13 points per game), rebounding (8.6 per game), blocks (81) and steals (34) and finished second on the team in assists (58) as a sophomore last season. He notched team-high efforts for double-digit scoring performances (21), double-figure rebounding counts (12) and double-doubles (eight).

In scoring, Claxton improved 233 percent (3.9 to 13 per game) from his freshman to sophomore years.

Even so, Claxton said it was hard to leave UGA.

“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision, especially with the situation of all the new guys coming in,” Claxton said. “I really wanted to play with those new guys. And I didn’t have a lot of closure from this past year. It feels like the season just ended, and I really didn’t know when I was going (leave for the NBA). But after testing the waters and getting the feedback I got, I feel like I made the right decision. And I’ll be able to go back and get my degree later on.”

The Bulldogs were 11-21 (2-16 SEC) last season, their first under coach Tom Crean.

Claxton was the only Bulldog to start every game. He was named second-team All-SEC by the league’s coaches and was on the SEC Academic Honor Roll for two straight seasons.

Claxton is the son of former Georgia star and NBA player Charles Claxton, who has served as primary adviser throughout this two-month process.

Scoring wasn’t the only area in which Claxton showed dramatic improvement last season. He also led Georgia in rebounding (8.6 per game), blocks (81) and steals (34) and finished second on the team in assists (58). Likewise, Claxton notched team-high efforts for double-digit scoring performances (21), double-figure rebounding counts (12) and double-doubles (eight).

Claxton was the only Bulldog to start every game last season. He was named second-team All-SEC by the league’s coaches and was on the SEC Academic Honor Roll for two straight seasons.

Claxton is the son of former Georgia star and NBA player Charles Claxton, who has served as primary adviser throughout this two-month process. Charles Claxton wasn’t wishy-washy about the families’ criteria for its decision. Nic Claxton would need to be assured he would be taken in the first round, otherwise “we’re coming back for the ‘Revenge Tour.'”

‘Revenge Tour’ is what the Bulldogs have come to call next season. It’s a reference to improving on what was one of the worst seasons in Georgia history in their first season under coach Tom Crean. The Bulldogs went 11-21 last year and won just two of 18 SEC games.

But Crean said he never made Claxton’s decision about what he could do for the team.

“He has a great family and support system,” Crean said. “No matter what happens, you support it, and you move forward.”