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Utah basketball's top player from last season is taking the leap to the NBA.

Kyle Kuzma announced Wednesday afternoon that he has decided to hire an agent and keep his name in the 2017 NBA draft in June. He delivered the announcement via Twitter, expressing his thanks for his time with the Runnin' Utes. Kuzma told The Tribune on Wednesday that he has signed with Priority Sports.

"The most important thing that you guys did was help me turn from a young kid from Flint, Michigan into a man and also helped me get the ultimate goal: a degree," he wrote. "I will forever appreciate that and love you guys for that."

The 6-foot-9 junior forward was among those invited to the NBA combine next weekend in Chicago — a big factor in his decision.

A first-team all-Pac-12 honoree this year, Kuzma is hoping to become the third NBA draft pick from Utah in as many years, joining Delon Wright (2015) and Jakob Poeltl (2016). He will graduate this month.

Kuzma declared for the draft in March but initially decided not to hire an agent, preserving the possibility that he could return to school. He was Utah's leading scorer (16.4 ppg) and rebounder (9.3 rpg) during the 2015-16 season that ended in the NIT.

Kuzma is projected to go in the second round at No. 59 overall by

Arriving early at Utah, Kuzma's tenure got off to a rocky start when he sat out his first year at the university after earning his GED. The closest he got to real action was playing pick-up in intramurals.

As a freshman, Kuzma was lightly used and considered transferring, but he took a leap forward as a sophomore, averaging 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. Last season, he became the featured player on the team and the longest-tenured scholarship player.

In his statement, he thanked his coaches for "giving me no handouts," the teammates he had played with, and the Utah fanbase.

"It was a pleasure to play for you guys," Kuzma wrote. "I can truly say that I laid it on the line every night just to make you guys proud of our program and our outstanding university. Once a Ute, always a Ute."

Utah has been busy this spring, signing forward Donnie Tillman, transfer Justin Bibbins and guard Christian PoPoola. Utah has two more available scholarships for the fall.

With Kuzma's departure, the Utes have no remaining members of the 2014 signing class, which included both Kuzma and Poeltl, but also saw a wave of transfers from the program.

The Tribune's Tony Jones contributed to this report

Twitter: @kylegoon

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