It's official: Wayns in NBA draft

Maalik Wayns put his name into the pool of NBA draft candidates on March 14. (Steven M. Falk/Staff file photo)

Villanova’s Maalik Wayns, as most figured all along, has made it official. The junior lead guard from Roman Catholic High will not be coming back for his final season of eligibility. Instead, he will keep his name in the NBA draft.

“We’ve been hearing all the rumors, so there was no reason to wait any longer,” said Wayns, a second-team All-Big East selection and the leading scorer (averaging more than 17 points a game) on a team that finished 13-19. “The best thing was to get it out.

“It’s kind of a relief. Now it’s just all about work, trying to make my lifelong dream a reality. No more wavering back and forth.”

Wayns had put his name into the pool of candidates on March 14, a week after the Wildcats were eliminated in the second round of their conference tournament. By rule he had until April 10 to change his mind. But the choice had pretty much been made.

“We support Maalik’s decision and will continue to support him throughout the process,” coach Jay Wright said in a statement.

Wayns becomes the first Wildcat to leave early since sophomore Kyle Lowry was a late first-round pick in 2006.

Three years ago, junior Scottie Reynolds submitted his name but later had it removed. He then became a first-team All-America who still went undrafted.

At this point it’s hard to project where Wayns might go. A lot will come down to his workouts. Conventional wisdom at the moment seems to put him somewhere in the mid-second round. But it only takes one team. Whether he could have improved his stock by returning is tough to gauge.

“I’ve heard a lot of positives, and a lot of negative stuff,” admitted Wayns. “I understand people usually only think you should pursue this if you’re going to be a top-10 pick. But this is what me and my family wanted.

“I feel as though I’ve been at Villanova since I was a sophomore in high school. It’s been a part of me for a long time. But it’s the right time to move on. Coach Wright has been like a father figure to me. All my professors helped me do well in school. And my teammates are brothers for life. I love everything about this place ...

“I’m happy where I’m at. Last year I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t confident about myself. Now I can take everything that goes with it. I’m sure there will be criticism. But I’m excited about what’s going to happen. Anything’s possible.”

Wayns said he hasn’t signed with an agent but confirmed reports that he’s leaning toward North Jersey-based Andy Miller, who represents Kevin Garnett and Lowry, among others.

The Wildcats, who missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, will have two other junior starters back. They also had five first-year guys on the roster last season. At least some of them will obviously have to grow up a lot faster, especially new starting point guard Ty Johnson, whose development was slowed considerably after he broke a bone in his foot last summer.