BLOOMINGTON — Late in the season, Noah Vonleh realized his dream was within reach sooner rather than later.
After mulling over the NBA draft with his mother and Indiana coach Tom Crean, Vonleh eventually thought to himself, “Why not go for it?”
In discussing his decision to leave school early, Vonleh made clear the leap fulfills a childhood goal.
“I stuck with my heart and went with it,” Vonleh said Thursday. “The chance was there. I felt I’d be ready to go.”
The 6-foot-10 Massachusetts native averaged 11.3 points and nine rebounds and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Vonleh shot 52 percent overall and made 16 of 33 3-point shots.
“If you were taking a definition of upside, you could easily put his picture next to that definition because he has an unlimited future,” Crean said.
Along with Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, scouts view Vonleh as among the cream of the power forward crop.
He is regarded as a certain top-10 pick in the June draft and could climb into the top five with impressive workouts.
Indiana has lost three elite underclassmen to the NBA over a two-year span.
In 2013, former Hoosiers Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller were selected second and fourth, respectively, in the first round.
“This is a place where dreams can be fulfilled,” Crean said. “That’s a big thing. Noah is realizing his one year in. The pace that he developed at speaks a lot about everybody here and his capability.”
Vonleh said he has completed 43 percent of the coursework needed for a degree and plans to continue to chip away at it.
He said he will miss playing in front of the crowds at Assembly Hall and the daily guidance of Crean.
“He’s such a good person,” Crean said. “We’re extremely proud of him. He’s touched a lot of lives in a short period of time, and he is always going to have a home here.”