UNLV junior forward Khem Birch has declared for the NBA Draft.
The 6-foot-9 Canadian center averaged 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game and is a two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
“After talking at length with my family, I have decided to pursue my professional career,” Birch said in a statement released by the school. “It was a tough decision, one that I thought about for a very long time.”
Birch is now projected at No. 55 according to DraftExpress.com and ESPN’s Chad Ford has him listed as the No. 69 prospect in this year’s class
“He is a second-round possibility at best,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv. “He can block a shot but is a raw offensive player who needs D-League experience to start his professional career no matter who drafts him.”
Birch is the second UNLV junior to declare for the draft, following forward Roscoe Smith. UNLV also lost junior guard Bryce DeJean-Jones in a transfer to Iowa State.
The Rebels add a strong recruiting class led by McDonald’s and Jordan All-American shooting guard Rashad Vaughn, small forward Dwayne Morgan and big man Goodluck Okonoboh.
UNLV also returns 6-10 freshman forward Chris Wood and 6-9 redshirt freshman forward Demetris Morant.
“Khem certainly had a terrific junior year and he’s an experienced player, so it will be difficult to replace the things he does,” head coach Dave Rice said, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. “But I have a lot of confidence in the guys who are returning and a lot of confidence in the players we signed. We have a good group. We’re going to put guys in positions where they can be successful.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.