Western Kentucky junior center Charles Bassey blocks a shot by Old Dominion senior guard Malik Curry in the Hilltoppers’ 60-57 win March 6 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Charles Bassey will enter the NBA Draft.

Western Kentucky’s 6-foot-11 junior center announced his decision Thursday in a post on Twitter.

“First off, I would like to thank God for the ability to play the sport that I love. I would like to thank my family for always supporting me and loving me throughout my journey,” Bassey wrote. “Throughout my journey I have lost my mom, little brother and three aunts. I know that during this time they are all so proud of me for continuing to pursue my dreams. The sport has given me opportunities that I never imagined were possible growing up as a young boy in Nigeria. It has brought me relationships that I will cherish for a lifetime.

“ ... Over the past 3 years, I have enjoyed my time here in Bowling Green and having the opportunity to play in Diddle Arena. Each of you have welcomed me with open arms and supported me throughout my journey, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided to pursue my dreams of playing at the next level and declare for the 2021 NBA Draft. Just know that WKU will always be a special place.”

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony was the first to report Bassey’s decision in a story published earlier Thursday. Bassey told Givony he would enter and hire an agent.

Bassey averaged 17.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in 28 games this season for the 21-8 Hilltoppers. As of Thursday, Bassey ranked fourth nationally in blocks per game, fourth in defensive rebounds per game, fifth in total rebounds per game, second in double-doubles and 12th in field goal percentage.

The Lagos, Nigeria, native was named a Third-Team All-American by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and USA Today, as well as a Second-Team selection by Basketball Times and honorable mention by The Associated Press. He was WKU’s first USBWA All-American since Jim McDaniels in 1971. He’s also on the Wooden Award National Ballot, a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist and a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year top-five finalist.

Bassey was named C-USA’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, after earning seven weekly awards from the league this season for the 21-8 Hilltoppers – breaking the record for Player of the Week awards in a single season. Bassey was the fourth player in Conference USA history to win the league’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season.

He started in WKU’s first 10 games in the 2019-20 season before suffering a season-ending tibial plateau fracture in his left leg during an overtime victory against Arkansas on Dec. 7. Prior to that, he was averaging 15.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 28.1 minutes per game.

As a freshman, Bassey started all 34 games and led WKU with 14.6 points, 10 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game while shooting 62.7% from the field. He was named C-USA Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year – just the second player in league history to win both in the same season – and was one five national finalists and the only freshman for the Kareem Abdul Jabbar Center of the Year award.

The 2021 NBA Draft is scheduled for July 29.{&end}

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