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One day after his younger brother announced his long-expected departure to the NBA, Isaiah Mobley declared Saturday that he would follow him into the draft pool. At least, for the time being.
Mobley plans to test the NBA draft waters, he said, while retaining the ability to return for his junior season at USC.
“I look forward to gathering feedback during this process as I continue to work toward my dream of playing in the NBA,” Mobley said in a statement.
The 6-10 forward might ultimately find those draft waters murkier than he expected. While his brother, Evan, is expected to be a top-three pick, it’s no guarantee that Isaiah Mobley would be selected if he were to remain in the draft.
If his impressive run through March is any indication, Mobley could be in for a breakout season if he returns to USC. Through four games in the NCAA tournament, Mobley was the Trojans’ top scorer, averaging 16 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. After struggling from the perimeter for most of the season, Mobley even found his stroke from three-point range late in the season, knocking down nine of 11 over a four-game stretch from the start of the Pac-12 tournament.
It was exactly the type of performance USC had hoped to see from Mobley since he signed as a five-star recruit in the 2019 class. As a freshman, he struggled with consistency and played only a small role offensively behind another future lottery draft pick, Onyeka Okongwu, who was selected sixth overall by the Atlanta Hawks.
The confidence that was lacking grew over the course of Mobley's sophomore season. But it wasn’t until March that Mobley truly came alive.
Without a future lottery pick leading from the frontcourt, Mobley could easily build on that performance and emerge as USC’s top scorer next season if he decides to pull his name out of the draft pool.
That decision doesn’t need to be made until July 19, leaving Mobley plenty of time to mull over his decision. The 2021 NBA draft will be held 10 days later, when Evan Mobley is expected to become the highest-drafted Trojan in program history.
"Isaiah, we’ve been talking about this moment our entire lives," Evan said in a joint statement. "Thank you for being the best big brother and teammate I could ever ask for. This is just the beginning for us."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.