Murray State star Morant declares for NBA draft

Morant declares for 2019 NBA draft (1:08)

Ja Morant announces in a press conference that he is formally declaring for the 2019 NBA draft. (1:08)

Murray State sophomore guard Ja Morant announced Wednesday that he has made himself eligible for the 2019 NBA draft following a record-setting season for the Racers.

Morant, whose electric performance powered the Racers' first-round win over Marquette in the NCAA tournament, on Tuesday became the first Murray State player to be named a first-team Associated Press All-American.

A 6-foot-3, 170-pound point guard, Morant is the No. 2 prospect in ESPN's draft ratings. He averaged 24.5 points, 10 assists -- tops in the nation -- and 5.7 rebounds per game, becoming the first NCAA player to average 20 points and 10 assists since assists became an official statistic in the 1983-84 season.

Morant had 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds in the 12th-seeded Racers' win over fifth-seeded Marquette. It was the first triple-double in an NCAA tournament game since Draymond Green had one in 2012.

"It was difficult -- obviously, me and my teammates had a great season this year," Morant said in announcing his decision to declare for the draft at the team's arena. "Just talking with my parents, we thought it was going to happen in a day to make the decision, but another day went by and another day went by. It was a very tough decision just, I guess, to leave Murray State. But still a place in my heart, and I'll always be a Racer."

As a freshman, Morant averaged 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game, but he burst onto the scene this season.

Unheralded in high school, Morant joined the AAU's South Carolina Hornets the summer going into his sophomore season of high school, teaming up with Zion Williamson, before the Duke star became more widely known. Morant's first Division I offer didn't come until early in his junior season, from South Carolina State.

Murray State discovered Morant the summer before his senior season. Morant was a late add to the Chandler Parsons basketball camp. Then-assistant coach James Kane drove eight hours to the camp to watch Murray State target Tevin Brown and happened to see Morant playing 3-on-3 in the auxiliary gym. Kane called Murray State coach Matt McMahon immediately.

"Right away you just saw the athleticism and the explosiveness, the creativity and his ability to make plays for not only himself but for others," McMahon said. "He always had the flair -- the creativity, the flair."

Draft experts cite Morant's explosiveness and shiftiness. He goes end to end quickly, weaving through traffic with tremendous body control.

He puts pressure on the rim in the open court, knocks down pull-up 3s if given time and space and hands out assists as well as any guard in the country.

DraftKings Sportsbook has opened odds on the player to be drafted No. 2 overall in the 2019 NBA draft, and Morant is the -190 favorite. RJ Barrett has the next-best odds at +140, followed by Williamson at +550. Williamson is the overwhelming favorite to be drafted No. 1 overall at -835.

"To be projected that high is a blessing to be up there with the top players in college basketball," Morant said. "I really don't look at it as, I guess, being overlooked or anything because No. 2. I'll just take it as a blessing, just keep working and move on."

ESPN gambling writer Ben Fawkes and draft analyst Mike Schmitz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.