Basketball: Miami Hurricanes’ Lonnie Walker enters NBA draft, hires agent

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 08: Lonnie Walker IV #4 of the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes reacts in the second half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the quarterfinals of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 8, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

[Recruiting: Blue-chip LB commits to Miami]
[One encouraging sign for UM’s offense entering 2018]
[Backup QBs pushing starter Malik Rosier]

Lonnie Walker is turning pro and not coming back.

Walker announced Wednesday on Twitter he will enter the NBA draft and hire an agent. Once he does the latter, he cannot return to UM for his sophomore season.

In his lone season in Coral Gables, Walker led the team in scoring (11.5 points per game), averaged 2.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony rated Walker, 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds with a wingspan of nearly 6-11, as the 15th-best prospect in the 2018 NBA draft class and best available pure shooting guard. NBADraft.net rates him 14th on its big board.

He is believed to be the first player to enter the NBA draft after their freshman year at Miami — the first one-and-done player in UM history.

Walker wrote in a statement that his season at UM “exceeded (his) expectations. … From school, sports, the environment and last but not least, the Canes fans. The city has welcomed me with open arms and supported me at my lowest of lows, but also my highest of highs.” He thanked the Hurricanes’ coaching staff, which made him arguably the most heralded recruit in program history when they signed him out of Reading (Pa.) High in Nov. 2016.

Walker was rated 13th among all Class of 2017 recruits by ESPN. He was a McDonald’s All-American — the fifth in UM history, and first since Dewan Huell in 2016 — and a Jordan Brand All-American.

He entertained crowds with high-flying dunks and layups. On Jan. 24 against Louisville, he hung in the air and switched hands to drop a lay-up to force overtime, scoring 25 in all to lift Miami to a win. On Feb. 24, he sank a 3 with 2.3 seconds left to beat Boston College. His final game at UM wasn’t a memorable one: in a first-round NCAA tournament game in Dallas, his late turnover and missed free throw opened the door for Loyola’s Donte Ingram to hit a winning 3.

Walker took ownership for the end of Miami’s season, calling it a “learning experience” that “comes with being a good player.”

His review of his freshman year?

“It was extraordinary,” he said. “I’m proud of myself. I’m more proud of my teammates for fighting through adversity.”

Two of his Miami teammates — sophomore guard Bruce Brown and sophomore forward Dewan Huell — previously announced they will enter the draft but not hire agents. As such, they can work out for teams and participate in the NBA combine, and still return to school.

The NBA combine is May 16-20 in Chicago. The dateline for a early entrant to withdraw from the draft is June 11. The NBA Draft is June 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.