Villanova star Mikal Bridges declares for NBA draft

Mikal Bridges, one of the stars of Villanova’s run to the 2018 national championship, will not return for his senior season.

The All-American forward announced Tuesday morning that he will enter the NBA draft. Bridges, a projected lottery pick, told ESPN that his effectiveness on both sides of the floor as an athletic slasher with a deadly 3-point shot who can defend multiple positions makes him an ideal NBA prospect.

“There’s space in the NBA on the floor, and there’s this move toward position-less basketball that I fit into,” Bridges told ESPN. “I can shoot the ball. I can defend. I can move without the ball. I’m progressing in my game, getting better through work every day.”

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Bridges redshirted his first season on campus before emerging as a key bench cog for the Wildcats — especially on defense — during their run to the 2016 national title. He averaged 6.4 points while shooting 29.9 percent from 3-point distance.

Villanova’s Mikal Bridges cuts the net as he celebrates after the championship game of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Michigan, Monday, April 2, 2018, in San Antonio. Villanova won 79-62. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Those averages jumped to 9.8 points and 39.3 percent from long distance as a sophomore and 17.7 points and 43.5 percent as a junior. In the national championship victory over Michigan, Bridges poured in 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting (3 of 7 from three).

“Mikal has been an exemplary student-athlete during his four years with us at Villanova,” said Wildcats head coach Jay Wright. “His work ethic and willingness to accept coaching have helped him grow steadily in his time here. He’s a great teammate and leader. I’m confident he will enjoy a very successful professional career.”

Bridges is on track to graduate from Villanova in May, as is fellow junior Jalen Brunson, the national player of the year. Brunson, a 6-foot-3 point guard, is also expected to declare for the NBA draft. Brunson averaged 18.9 points and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 40.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

Other Villanova players who could test the draft waters include national title game hero Donte DiVincenzo and freshman big man Omari Spellman.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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