Joe Murphy

Yale men’s basketball guard Miye Oni ’20, this season’s Ivy League Player of the Year and a unanimous selection to the All-Ivy First Team, announced Friday morning that he would declare for the 2019 NBA draft.

Oni, who most draft pundits project as a mid-to-late second-round pick, has signed with agent Harrison Gaines of SLASH Sports. If selected in June, Oni will become the first Ancient Eight athlete selected by an NBA team since the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Penn’s Jerome Allen as the 49th pick in 1995.

“I plan on entering the 2019 draft,” Oni told ESPN in a text message that he shared with the News. “I did the Undergraduate Advisory Request to legally protect myself and my eligibility, but I have every intention of staying in the draft… My teammates and coaching staff at Yale have helped take my game to the next level, and I believe that it is the right time for me to explore my options of playing basketball at the professional level.”

Although he emphasized his intent to remain in the draft, Oni maintains his collegiate eligibility by requesting an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. Since 2016, college basketball players who declare for the draft have been able to remove themselves from the draft and maintain eligibility if they withdraw within 10 days after the invite-only NBA combine in mid-May.

Meanwhile new NCAA policies, updated in September 2018 allow basketball players who request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee and attend the combine to return to school if they are not selected and notify their institution’s athletics director by 5 p.m. the Monday following the draft.

In the statement, Oni also said he has “made arrangements to complete [his] degree if [he does] indeed leave Yale early.”

Head coach James Jones said Oni would be in New Haven attending classes through the end of the semester and working out with his trainer Jonathan Kelley and the Yale coaching staff to prepare for workouts with NBA teams. Jones said Oni will also be practicing with the rest of the team “as if nothing happened.”

“[Oni] obviously is excited about his opportunities going forward, and I am excited and happy for him,” Jones said. “He’s going to get information from the NBA in terms of where they see him going in the 2019 NBA draft. If he’s anywhere from one to 40 on the draft, I will drive him to New York myself. If he’s someone that they’re thinking is going to be from 45 to 60, most of those young men end up in the G-League, and it would probably be better for him to come back to Yale and graduate in his normal time.”

Oni finished the 2018–2019 season averaging 17.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists a game. He ranked top 10 in nearly every single Ivy League statistical category, tallying 1.3 blocks a game and shooting 44.1 percent from the field. He averaged 12.9 points in his first season with the Elis before increasing his scoring to 15.1 a game as a sophomore.

NBA franchises have only drafted seven Yale alumni — most recently Chris Dudley ’87 and Butch Graves ’84 — and none since the league adapted its current two-round format in 1989. Tony Lavelli ’49, the fourth overall pick in 1949, is the only Eli to have been selected in the first two rounds.

“It’s amazing [to see Oni declare],” guard Alex Copeland ’19 said. “Obviously as basketball players, we all were 5-year-old kids that would write in class … ‘I want to be an NBA basketball player, I want to be a pro.’ So to see Miye take a step toward that lifelong goal is amazing. He’s more deserving of this than anyone I know. He’s one of the hardest workers and puts more into a game than almost anyone I’ve been around.”

The 2019 NBA draft will be held June 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu 

Cristofer Zillo | cris.zillo@yale.edu