‘It’s been an honor’: LSU’s Trendon Watford announces he will enter 2021 NBA draft

After his first season at LSU a year ago, forward Trendon Watford tested the waters by putting his name in the NBA draft before deciding to return to school.

This time around, it appears that Watford will keep his name in the draft.

The 6-foot-9 native of Birmingham, Alabama, announced Wednesday that he’s applying for early entry again after helping the Tigers to a 19-10 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament last month. 

“This has been a lifelong dream of mine,” Watford said in his statement.

Watford went on to thank LSU, his coaches, teammates and fans. He also said he plans to hire an agent, which would preclude him from returning to school.

“Thank you for embracing a kid from Birmingham, Alabama, as one of your own,” Watford wrote. “It’s been an honor to wear the purple and gold. These past two years have been a complete joy.”

After going through the process once, it was a foregone conclusion that Watford, a first-team All-Southeastern Conference pick this season after making the league’s All-Freshman team a year ago, would again explore his options.

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LSU coach Will Wade said after his team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament with a second-round loss to Michigan that he expected the big four of Watford, Cam Thomas, Javonte Smart and Darius Days would enter the July 29 draft and remain in it.

While Watford doesn’t appear on most mock drafts, he’s projected to go in the latter stages of the second round by Bleacher Report.

He is ranked 98th on the Top 100 Prospects list by NBADraft.net, which suggests that he might not be selected in the two-round, 60-player draft.

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If that’s the case, Watford will have to try and take the same path as another former five-star recruit, 6-10 forward Naz Reid, took in 2019 when he left LSU.

After being touted as a lottery pick before his arrival at LSU, Reid, a McDonald’s All-American, departed following his freshman season.

But his name wasn’t called in the draft and he signed a free agent deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Unfazed by the draft snub, Reid has earned a roster spot each of the past two seasons.

Watford, who started 58 of 59 career games at LSU, was the Tigers’ second-leading scorer this season behind Thomas and was their second-leading rebounder behind Days.

Scoring 20 points or more in nine of 28 games, Watford netted 16.3 points per game and also averaged 7.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

In his two seasons, Watford shot a combined 48.4% from the field and 66.2% from the free-throw line while averaging 14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

His best game as a Tiger came in the SEC tournament final against Alabama on March 14.

He scored a career-high 30 points in making 13 of 23 field-goal attempts and added eight rebounds in a valliant effort that came up one point shy of a title.

Watford was named to the All-Tournament team after leading all scorers with 63 points in LSU’s three games — getting 24 points in a quarterfinal win over Ole Miss in addition to his 30-point explosion in the final against Alabama.

“LSU will always have a special place in my heart,” Watford wrote, “and I’m proud to be able to call Baton Rouge my second home.”

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