ARIZONA BASKETBALL

Arizona C Christian Koloko declares for 2022 NBA Draft

Apr 18, 2022, 7:29 AM | Updated: 7:40 am

Center Christian Koloko #35 of the Arizona Wildcats and forward Kur Jongkuch #15 of the Northern Co...

Center Christian Koloko #35 of the Arizona Wildcats and forward Kur Jongkuch #15 of the Northern Colorado Bears reach after a rebound during the second half at McKale Center on December 15, 2021 in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Wildcats won 101-76. (Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)

Arizona Wildcats center Christian Koloko is forgoing his senior year and entering the 2022 NBA Draft, the junior told The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Monday.

As a junior for the Pac-12 champions, Koloko made a leap in 2021-22 after starting just 19 games during his first two college seasons.

“Since I started playing basketball, playing in the NBA has always been my dream,” Koloko said. “I think I’m ready for that and I think I need to get to that next level and get to that next opportunity, that next challenge of my life. I think it’s time for me to take that next step basically.”

Koloko started all 37 games for the 33-4 Arizona team that made a run to the Sweet 16.

He averaged 12.6 points on 64% shooting and added 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.4 assists per game.

The performances during the regular season earned Koloko Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and the conference most improved honors.

Koloko tied an Arizona school record for 102 blocks for a season that was set by Loren Woods in 2000-01. The total ranked sixth in the country for 2021-22.

A potential first-round pick, the 7-foot-1, 230-pound junior averaged just 5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as a sophomore, when he started 19 of 26 games played.

Koloko raised his stock under first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd starting early on this year by winning battles against All-American talents.

He scored 22 points to go with seven rebounds while holding Hunter Dickinson to 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting as Arizona upset No. 4 Michigan in November. Weeks later, Koloko had four blocks and three steals as he forced Illinois center Kofi Cockburn to go 5-of-15 shooting in another Wildcats victory.

Big performances came late in the season as well. In the NCAA Tournament opener for Arizona, Koloko posted 17 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and five blocks against Wright State, a line that had never been accomplished in the tournament.

Koloko followed that with a 28-point, 12-board performance in which he shot 12-of-13 from the field against TCU in the round of 32.

Originally from Cameroon, Koloko joined Arizona and former head coach Sean Miller as a three-star prospect out of Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, Calif.

“I don’t have to prove anything, I’m just going to show them what I can do and continue to work on the stuff I’ve been doing all year,” Koloko said. “I’m going to show them that I can do a little more stuff.

“I have a pretty good midrange shot, I have some good moves in the post … and I can add to my game. I don’t think they’ve really seen me do that stuff and I’m just going to show them that I can do that stuff … at a high level.”

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