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Sophomore standout Xaivian Lee declares for NBA draft, maintaining college eligibility

Man in a black jersey drives against three defenders on a basketball court with a ball in his hand.
Lee was a unanimous All-Ivy first-team selection this past season for the Tigers, averaging 17 points per game.
Ammaar Alam / The Daily Princetonian

In the weeks following the opening of the transfer portal, the Ivy League has seen star after star depart the conference, including Yale’s Danny Wolf, Harvard’s Malik Mack, and Brown’s Nana Owusu-Anane. But Princeton’s star players, sophomore guard Xaivian Lee and sophomore forward Caden Pierce, stayed firm inside the Orange Bubble — until Friday evening, when Lee did not enter the transfer portal, but rather jumped to declaring for the NBA draft.

ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report that Tiger standout Xaivian Lee will be declaring for the 2024 NBA draft while maintaining college eligibility.


“I think it was the smart thing to do,” Lee told The Daily Princetonian in an interview. “Not necessarily leaving for the NBA, but testing the waters and seeing where I’m at against that level of competition … That is ultimately how I can get better and set myself up for the future.”

Declaring for the draft requires Lee to decide his future by May 29. Should he choose to stay in the draft past May 29, Lee will lose his college eligibility.

“That was the important part of it [maintaining my eligibility],” Lee added. “I’m entering this process … open-minded and I have intentions of coming back to school for sure."

Lee will try to do something that has only happened once since 1996 — be drafted to the NBA from the Ivy League. That one player was Yale’s Miye Oni, who was picked 58th in the 2019 draft after declaring early after his junior year, though he struggled to adjust to the NBA and is now playing in the G-League

“I think everyone has a goal of making the NBA, but this is just the first step in that process,” Lee told the ‘Prince.’


Lee will be represented by George S. Langberg, founder and CEO of GSL Sports Group, the same agency that represents former Tiger star and current Detroit Pistons forward Tosan Evbuomwan ’23. Evbuomwan is the NBA’s only Ivy League player and has recently been starting for a severely depleted Detroit roster. 

“Going through the process and talking with different people, George [Langberg] seemed like a really good guy, really easy to talk to, and I think he believes in me and has a good understanding of who I am as a person and as a player,” Lee added.

While Evbuomwan and Lee are in different situations — Evbuomwan was graduating from Princeton at the time of declaring, while Lee is only a rising junior — Lee has still looked to Evbuomwan for guidance.

“I definitely spoke to Tosan [Evbuomwan] going through this process,” Lee noted. “We spoke for a couple of hours over the phone here and there. He’s helped guide me through the process … not really on making the decision, but on the mental side of it and he’s been through that process already.”

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Lee became a core part of the Tigers’ squad after seeing limited playing time during his rookie season at Old Nassau. After a summer that saw Lee shine at the 2023 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup for Team Canada, Lee had a stellar sophomore campaign that saw him average 17.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game on the season. 

When the season ended, Lee finished first in points during in-conference play within the Ivy League, tied with teammate Caden Pierce. He was named on the All-Ivy first team as one of four unanimous selections. He was also a finalist for the Lou Henson National Player of the Year Award, an award given to the best mid-major player in college basketball. 

It is difficult to say how Lee’s game will translate to the NBA. On offense, he has scored over 60 percent of all his field goals unassisted and has a unique playing style that can be a headache for opposing defenses. His biggest concern for scouts will likely be on the defensive end of the ball. While Lee undoubtedly has the lateral quickness that is needed on the defensive end, his lean frame is an overall concern due to the larger size and physicality in the NBA. 

The next eight weeks will be crucial for Lee. While handling four courses at Princeton, Lee will likely attend the NBA draft combine scheduled for May 12–19 and schedule different pre-draft workouts with interested organizations.

“I think it’ll probably take a lot to persuade me to stay in [the NBA draft],” Lee noted. “I’m just really excited to see what happens and I’m open-minded to the process. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. That’s what basketball is about.” 

While whether he suits up for the Tigers in November remains a question mark, Lee remains grateful for the support the Tigers received this season from the community and the school. 

“We’re all super thankful for the great support this year,” Lee said. “It just made it so fun and a privilege to play for you guys [fans] … I’m excited for the future.”

Hayk Yengibaryan is an associate Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’

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