by RENALDO DORSETT

His star studded junior season came to an end prematurely in the East Regional Semifinals, but despite his reputation as one of the top players in the NCAA, Buddy Hield has no immediate plans to enter the NBA Draft.

“I haven’t thought about the NBA at all,” Hield said following the Sweet 16 loss to Michigan State, “Im three years in. I’m a junior. I’ve got to finish. My degree’s right around the corner so what’s the sense in going somewhere else. You can’t relive this this and comeback and get your degree so I would just rather get it one time. So the NBA, I don’t know I’ll have to talk to my family and coach Kruger about that.”

The 6’4” 215 pound guard added to his long list of accolades this season when he was named a third-team All-American by both the Associated Press and the National Association of Basketball Coaches yesterday.

Scouts and analysts have Hield tapped as a potential selection for this year’s NBA Draft.

Reputed mock draft site www.nbadraft.net projects Hield as a late first round pick at the No.26 range while www.draftexpress.com has him projected as a mid second round pick in the N.46 range.

Despite the national attention he has garnered on the year, for the moment, Hield remains solely focused on the Sooners and his senior season.

The Sooners will lose just two players that played in the Sweet 16 game and will welcome an incoming recruiting class which features four star recruit Akolda Manyang.

“We have a lot of experience coming back and I already know the team is going to be great next year. No matter what happens, the team will be great,” Hield said, “We have AK [Manyang] coming in, we have new guards coming in so the team will be stacked. Coach Kruger did a good job turning the programme around and it’s going to be fun.”

Hield became the 21st player in Sooners history to earn All-America honours and the first since Blake Griffin was the consensus national player of the year in 2009.

He became the first player in the conference to be named Big 12 player of the year and to the academic all-conference first team while also leading the league in scoring

Hield averaged 17.4 points a game this season and added 5.4 rebounds a contest, most among Big 12 guards. He also led the league with his 93 three-pointers and ranked sixth in free throw percentage at 82 and ninth in three-point field goal percentage at 36.

A volume shooter and one of the best in the NCAA, he scored in double figures in 32 of 35 games on the year, including in 28 of the final 29, in helping the Sooners to a 24-11 record.

The Grand Bahama native is one of 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, doled out to the national player of the year, and one of five finalists for the inaugural Jerry West Award, given to the top shooting guard of the year.

Hield already ranks fifth in OU history with his 202 career 3-pointers and 15th with his 1,366 points. His 183 treys over the last two seasons represent a two-year school record.

Hield said he has added inspiration after one of his first coaches, Grand Bahama’s iconic Gladstone “Moon” McPhee, was in the stands to witness the Sweet 16 loss to Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn and the Michigan State Spartans.

“Me and coach been friends and he’s been my mentor from such a young age. It felt good to see him up there cheering me on,” he said, “I feel bad making him come up here, I know he had to travel a long way from home, seeing him leave with a loss. Feels like unfinished business. I was happy for ‘Tum Tum’ but I just wish I could have moved on.”

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