Published April 26. 2014 4:00AM
As UConn basketball teammates and roommates, DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright are rarely apart during the school year.
They'll soon be headed in different directions.
Daniels is forgoing his final year of eligibility and entering the 2014 NBA Draft while Boatright is returning for his senior season.
Yahoo Sports first reported Daniels' decision on Friday and UConn confirmed the news, as well as announcing that Boatright is coming back. Both juniors played pivotal roles in helping the Huskies win the program's fourth national championship earlier this month.
Daniels has filed paperwork with the NBA to become eligible for the June 26 draft.
"I just felt like this was the right time for me," he said in a released statement. "I sat down with my family and we discussed it and everyone agreed, but the final decision was still mine and it was hard. I had a great career at UConn and I wouldn't change it for the world, and to go out on top like we did makes it even better."
An athletic 6-foot-9 forward, Daniels is projected as a late first-round pick. He improved his draft stock during UConn's surprising March Madness run, averaging 16 points and a team-best 7.2 rebounds in six games.
During an inconsistent season, he started 38 games, averaging 13.1 points and a team-leading six rebounds per game.
"There have been ups and downs, but it's been the best three years of my life," Daniels said. "Today, when I thought about leaving, I even cried a little bit because I love this school and the friends I've made here. But I'm excited to follow the dream I've had since I was a little kid."
Daniels thanked coach Kevin Ollie and former coach Jim Calhoun for believing in him. He plans on returning to finish his degree requirements "in the summers ahead."
Ollie, who played 13 years in the NBA, supports Daniels' decision.
"DeAndre has made an enormous contribution to the success we have enjoyed at UConn, both on the court and in the classroom," Ollie said. "Besides being an outstanding basketball player, he is a quality young man. We wholeheartedly support the decision he has made and wish him nothing but success. ... He will always be part of our UConn family."
UConn has a great track record of early departing players being drafted in the first round. Fourteen of the previous 15 Huskies who turned pro were selected in the first round, including 13 lottery picks.
The last two Huskies to go that route - Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb in 2012 - went ninth and 12th, respectively. Drummond stars for the Detroit Pistons and Lamb contributes off the bench for Oklahoma City.
Boatright was tempted to turn professional, but signs indicated that he might go undrafted, so he decided to stay. A 6-foot guard, he bolstered his reputation during the NCAA tournament by playing disruptive defense and sinking timely shots. While his decision-making improved this season, he shot just 39 percent from the field.
With the departure of All-American Shabazz Napier and as the lone senior on next year's team, Boatright will assume even a bigger role, especially as a leader. He averaged 12.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists while appearing in 39 games, starting 38.
"I couldn't be happier that Ryan will be back with us next season," Ollie said, "not only for his terrific basketball talents, but to provide tremendous senior leadership for us, both on and off the court. The growth and maturity he has shown throughout his career has been wonderful and I expect that to continue as he works toward his degree."
The Huskies will return just two starters - Boatright and center Phil Nolan - from the national title game against Kentucky. They are losing their top two scorers in Napier and Daniels, their best 3-point shooter in Niels Giffey, defensive stopper Lasan Kromah and reserve Tyler Olander.
Next season's newcomers include: guard Rodney Purvis, a North Carolina State transfer, talented swingman Daniel Hamilton, combination guard Sam Cassell Jr. and forward Rakim Lubin.