BYU’s Elijah Bryant announces he will turn pro, forgo his senior season of eligibility

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes forward David Collette (13) guards Brigham Young Cougars guard Elijah Bryant (3), in basketball action, Utah Utes vs. Brigham Young Cougars at the Marriott Center in Provo, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2017.

Provo • BYU’s basketball program is losing one of its best players before the player’s college eligibility is exhausted for the second straight year.

Leading scorer Elijah Bryant, who just completed his junior season but will graduate next week, announced on his YouTube channel that he is turning professional.

“I am honored to say that I have graduated from BYU and look forward to connecting more dots with great people around the world. Follow my journey as I chase my dreams,” Bryant said.

The 6-foot-5 guard’s departure is a significant blow to coach Dave Rose’s program, seeing as how Bryant averaged a team-high 18.2 points per game last season. The Cougars went 24-11 and failed to make it to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.

Bryant’s announcement was not totally unexpected. Rose hinted on the BYU SportsNation television program last week that he could be losing a top player or two from a 2017-18 roster that included no seniors. Rising junior Yoeli Childs, the team’s second-leading scorer, has declared for the NBA draft but so far has retained his college eligibility by not hiring an agent.

In a 1-minute, 50-second video titled “My Journey to Professional Basketball!”, Bryant said it has been his childhood dream to play in the NBA “and now is my opportunity to fulfill that dream.”

He traces his development at Elon University to his transfer to “my dream university, BYU, where I was able to meet my wife [Jenelle Fraga], and not only grow on the court, but also spiritually and in the classroom.”

Bryant is a bit older than most rising seniors because he spent a year at a prep school after graduating from high school and also sat out his first year at BYU due to NCAA transfer rules. He’s also dealt with some nagging knee injuries that required surgery and limited his playing time his sophomore season.

He averaged 6.3 rebounds and shot 49.4 percent from the floor and 41.5 percent from 3-point range last season.

BYU center Eric Mika left the school two years early last spring and is playing professionally in Italy. Bryant also likely will begin his pro career in Europe if he is not taken in the NBA draft in June.