Louisville guard Carlik Jones dribbles past a Wake Forest defender

Louisville guard Carlik Jones (1) dribbles past defense from Wake Forest forward Ody Oguama (33) on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 in Winston-Salem, N.C. (Winston-Salem Journal/Andrew Dye) 011421-wsj-spt-wakeasf

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville basketball's leading scorer is testing the NBA Draft waters. 

Carlik Jones, a graduate transfer who received first-team all-conference honors in his first season with U of L, declared for the 2021 NBA Draft on Saturday "while still maintaining my eligibility as a Cardinal," he said in a post to his Instagram account

Jones will not hire an agent, meaning he could decide to rejoin Chris Mack's team for another season at a later date. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones was granted an additional year of eligibility — along with all NCAA Division I student-athletes who play winter sports. 

"I want to keep all of my options open," Jones said in the Instagram post. "Thank you again, Cardinal Nation, for all of your unyielding support this past year. Cardinal for life! L's up."

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A post shared by Carlik Jones (@carlikjones)

Jones, a guard who transferred to Louisville from Radford University, averaged 16.8 points and 37.5 minutes per game during the 2020-21 season. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native was a runner-up for the Atlantic Coast Conference's Player of the Year Award and led the Cardinals in scoring in some of their biggest victories of the year, including a 20-point effort against rival Kentucky and a season-high 25 points in 44 minutes at Duke. 

Louisville ended the season 13-7 (8-5 ACC) and missed out on the NCAA Tournament. 

"First and foremost, I want to thank God for what has been an unbelievable year as a Cardinal," Jones said in the Instagram post. "Throughout all of the ups and downs this season, the one constant was the love shown by the Cardinal Nation. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing program. Coach Mack has been everything he said he would be during the recruiting process and more.

"With that being said, it has always been my dream to be in the NBA and play on the biggest stage possible. After talking to my parents and loved ones, I have decided to enter my name into the 2021 NBA draft process and see where this road takes me."

Mack, in a statement, said he "fully" supports Jones' decision. 

"While we would like to see him return in a Cardinal uniform next season, this is a great opportunity for him to assess where he stands," the Cards' coach said. "He will be evaluated by the NBA and have direct input on where he is viewed so he can make the most informed decision on his future."

Jones' roommate, Malik Williams, decided to come back to Louisville in March after a string of injuries this past season. 

In discussing his decision to stay, Williams said he'd love to see Jones return, as well, and lets him known often. In the end, however, he said it's not is place to try exerting too much influence. 

"I'm on my roommate every day," he said in March. "I'd love to have Carlik staying with us for another year, but he has to do what's best for him. If that involves testing the waters and leaving this year, I'll always have his back. But I'd love having him back. The talent that he is, I feel like we could really make some noise next year."

The NBA Draft's early entry deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET on May 30. The deadline for early entry players to withdrawal from the draft is 5 p.m. ET on July 19. 

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