Tyler Polley returning to UConn while exploring NBA Draft option

Tyler Polley has decided to return to UConn for a fifth year.

Polley will enter his name into the NBA Draft as he explores the “possibility of a professional offer,” but he has passed on the opportunity to transfer to another school as a graduate student.

“I want to come back because UConn basketball is my family and I wanted the chance to play ball with my family one more time,” Polley said in a statement. “I feel like we moved the program forward last year and we want to take it even further next season.”

Polley, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 7.5 points and shot 35.5% from 3-point land as a senior this past season and earned the Big East Conference’s Sixth Man Award.

He was never better than on Jan. 5, when Polley popped off the bench and poured a career high 24 points and five 3-pointers with star James Bouknight hobbled by an elbow injury. He followed that up a few days later with 19 points against Butler and was named Big East Player of the Week.

However, Polley’s production was spotty the rest of the season. He hit some 3-pointers off the bench a few times, but also had a few scoreless outings.

Polley’s career at UConn got off to a fast start, starting his first five games as a freshman — something stars like Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier and Bouknight never did.

He shot 41.7-percent from 3-point range as a freshman, then averaged 8.4 points and 38-percent shooting from 3 as a sophomore. As a junior, he was averaging 9.5 points per game and coming off a then-career high of 19 points and 11 rebounds (his first career double-double) against Tulane on Jan. 8, when he tore the ACL in his left knee the next day in practice, ending his season.

Polley had to rehab mostly from his Miramar, Florida home last year due to the pandemic, at times doing yoga in the backyard or doing poolwork at his aunt’s home and checking in at night via Zoom calls with trainer James Doran.

Polley scored 14 points in the season-opener against Central Connecticut State this season, but then went scoreless in consecutive games against Hartford and USC, losing his starting job in the process. His mother, Kim Rogers, told Hearst Connecticut Media that Polley struggled with the reduced role, but that overall, his experience at UConn has been a great one.

Polley is taking advantage of the NCAA’s ruling this year that all winter athletes are granted an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 hardships. Isaiah Whaley is also returning and neither player will not count against UConn’s 13-scholarship limit.

“Tyler has been a big part of the progress we’ve made over the last three years,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said in a statement. “Like Isaiah (Whaley), he is a UConn man who has been with us from the start and wants to finish what he started.

“And like Isaiah, Tyler’s experience and his leadership, as well as his shooting and versatility on the court, are invaluable to us as we continue to rebuild this program.”

Whaley, incidentally, was the Big East’s co-Defensive Player of the Year this past season.

Senior Josh Carlton and graduating junior Brendan Adams are transferring to Houston and George Washington University, respectively.

david.borges@hearstmediact.com