Wisconsin's Sam Dekker (15) and teammate Frank Kaminsky, left, celebrate in front of Duke's Matt Jones, right, during the first half of the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament championship game Monday, April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/D
David J. Phillip
April 10, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) Sam Dekker cooled off, as promised, after Wisconsin's tough loss to Duke in the NCAA title game before making the most important decision yet of his young basketball career.

The forward is skipping his senior season with the Badgers to enter the NBA draft.

''After lots of thoughts and prayers, I've decided that it is in my best interest to enter the NBA Draft at this time,'' Dekker said Friday.

The 6-foot-9 forward announced his decision in a seven-paragraph letter addressed to fans. The letter, on Wisconsin stationary and simply signed ''Sam,'' was released by the team.

He offered heartfelt thanks to everyone connected to the program - from coach Bo Ryan to the fans.

''It is difficult to leave Madison and the only state I've called home, but I'm excited for the next chapter in my life,'' Dekker said.

Dekker's decision isn't entirely unexpected after he made a star turn in the tourney, averaging 19.2 points.

He blossomed into a reliable option in clutch situations. After slumping from the perimeter late in the regular season, Dekker found his stroke from long range and hit 50 percent from 3-point territory over the tournament's first five games.

But Dekker missed all six of his 3-point attempts in the 68-63 loss to Duke in the title game Monday night in Indianapolis.

That game ended a remarkable two-year run of Final Four appearances for Wisconsin.

''The privilege of playing in front of a sold-out Kohl Center or looking around at the seat of red that filled Lucas Oil Stadium last weekend are things that most college basketball players never get to experience and I never took that for granted,'' Dekker said.

He'll join AP Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky as potential first-round selections in the draft in June.

Kaminsky, a senior, and Dekker were best friends. Now, they could be rookies together in the NBA come fall.

Dekker was a touted recruit from Sheboygan, when he arrived in Madison in 2012. He started all 78 games for Wisconsin each of the last two seasons.

A bundle of energy on the court, Dekker has the ability hit jumpers and drive to the bucket. But until the NCAAs, his career had been marked by long flashes of promise interspersed with careless turnovers or mistakes that caused coach Bo Ryan to pull him to the bench.

Everything seemed to click during the tournament. He finished the 2014-15 season averaging 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds and helped the Badgers to a school-record 36 wins.

Wisconsin will have a dramatically different look next season with Dekker and Kaminsky gone. Senior guards Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson, along with reserve forward Duje Dukan, are also out of eligibility.

Forward Nigel Hayes and point guard Bronson Koenig, who will be juniors, figure to anchor the Badgers.

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Associated Press writer Gretchen Ehlke contributed to this report.

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