Penava leaving Herd

April 20, 2018 GMT

HUNTINGTON — Ajdin Penava decided to sign with an agent and not return to Marshall University for his senior year of basketball.

The 6-foot-10 native of Bosnia had applied for the 2018 NBA Draft, seemingly to test the waters and obtain feedback. But that course seriously changed recently.

Penava’s parents explained the family’s decision in a letter to Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni.

“First, we want to thank you for everything you did for Ajdin in these previous three years and for the opportunity to play basketball and study at Marshall University,” his mother wrote.

“We genuinely appreciate that whole experience. We think that Ajdin justified your trust and the chance that you gave him by working hard and representing you as a coach, Marshall University and that community in the best way possible. We want to congratulate you for the success that you had this season and everything that was achieved. We’re extremely proud that Ajdin was a part of that success

“Ajdin talked to you about his goals and you were the first person to know any of that. His dream is to go pursue an NBA career and he has our full support through it.

“Finally, we as a family made a decision that we think is more beneficial for Ajdin and his future. Right now, he needs the best conditions for development, for which we believe are in Santa Barbara (Calif.) with P3 (a training facility) and everything else that he gets there.

“We hope you will keep supporting Ajdin on his journey to the NBA. In agreement with us, he is entering the NBA Draft and signing with agent Rade Filipovich and BDA.

“Ajdin’s parent, Amela and Semir Penava.”

D’Antoni replied to the Penavas’ letter with a letter of his own.

“Thank you for sharing your son with Marshall,” he wrote. “He has been a huge part of restoring a quality basketball program as a player and as a young man. It is my hope he fulfills all his dreams. We will miss him and he can always count on me to support his efforts.

“I hope he always feels comfortable to return and visit with me, his teammates and friends he made in Huntington. Again best wishes to the Penava family. Y’all will always be a part of one of our finest moments.

“Coach Dan.”

It will be difficult to replace Penava. He averaged 15.6 points and 8. 5 rebounds, besides leading the nation in blocked shots with 134 during the 2017-18 season. He was the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and was an All C-USA third-team selection.

But D’Antoni already is looking at several big men to help fill Penava’s spot.

Penava is the first Marshall player to declare for the NBA Draft since Hassan Whiteside in 2010. Whiteside made the jump after his only college season in 2010 and was selected with the No. 33 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings. He played with the Kings, in the NBA G-League and overseas before signing with the Miami Heat in 2014.