By GARY B. GRAVES (AP Sports Writer)
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky guard James Young will enter the NBA draft, becoming the first of the Wildcats' heralded freshmen to turn pro.
The 6-foot-6 Young led Kentucky with 82 3-pointers last season. He was one of six high school All-American recruits on a Wildcats squad that began the season No. 1 with expectations of winning the national championship. His 43 percent shooting from long range in the NCAA tournament helped Kentucky reach the final before it lost 60-54 to Connecticut last week.
The Wildcats' second-leading scorer averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Projected as a first-round selection, Young said in a statement Thursday that ''my time at Kentucky has been special to me, something I'll always treasure, but I feel that I'm ready to take the next step to the NBA.''
Young made the Final Four all-tournament team after averaging 18.5 points and 6 rebounds. Though known for his perimeter shooting, the Rochester Hills, Mich., native wasn't afraid of contact.
In the second half of the championship game at Arlington, Texas, Young drove the lane through several Huskies defenders for a vicious dunk that brought teammates off the bench and on to the elevated court.
Earlier Thursday, Kentucky coach John Calipari gave no indication which of his talented freshmen would leave for the NBA. Forward Julius Randle and twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison are expected to announce their decisions soon, and 7-foot center Dakari Johnson might be mulling his options. Forward Marcus Lee plans to return.
Young played a big role in Kentucky's late-season run and now moves on to the next level, as many expected.
''From Day 1, the NBA people who came to our practices in the preseason raved about him,'' Calipari said in a statement. ''He's done everything we've asked of him all season, investing himself in his brothers for the betterment of the team, and I think we all saw the end result in the tournament and Final Four.
''Whatever team drafts James is not only getting a superb athlete, they are getting the ultimate teammate.''