The report had been out there for a couple weeks now, but Joel Embiid today officially declared for the NBA Draft at a press conference. Embiid, most importantly, said that his back is 100% now and did not impact his decision at all.
The Freshman from Cameroon averaged 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks, but had to miss a lot of time with injuries, including his aforementioned back problems.
His advanced stats tell an even better picture of the story: Embiid had a 63% eFG, a 12.7% offensive rebounding rate, and a 27.3% defensive rebounding rate. He finished the year as the nation's 11th best defensive rebounder and 19th best shot blocker. Beyond his impact in blocking shots, though, was his impact at the rim in general: via hoop-math, Kansas was one of the best teams in the country at rim protection for most of the season, before cratering after Embiid's injury. Given what took place in the games where he didn't play, his impact was easy to see and easy to feel.
Not just for his play on the court, but for his demeanor off it, Embiid will be missed. It's always bittersweet when a guy as talented as him leaves. Everything from his instagram photos after the Oklahoma State win to his little dance after getting a three point play opportunity pointed to a guy who loves Lawrence and loves the game of basketball.
Embiid's progress thus far has been remarkable. Two years ago he was basically a nobody on the recruiting trail, then by the time he enrolled at Kansas he was the #1 ranked center in his class (by ESPN). He obviously showed tools early, even as he was coming off the bench, but by December I had already tweeted that I would take Embiid #1 in the 2014 Draft. NBA teams soon followed, and he's sat at either #1 or #2 in mock drafts since.
At the next level Embiid will have to fill out his lower half a bit, and get into a good situation for his development, but if all of the right boxes are checked, we could be telling people about the year that one of the best big men in recent history played at Kansas.
Regardless, Embiid was, is, and will be a great ambassador for the program, and I will forever remember all of the times Embiid made me gape in amazement either at a ridiculous play he had just made, or his learning curve in general. Thank you, Joel, and congrats.