Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Stephen Curry of Davidson, the North Carolina duo of Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington and UConn big man Ater Majok all declared Thursday for the draft. Curry, Lawson and Ellington are juniors, while Majok has yet to play a game at UConn.
“When I came here I thought it was going to be for four years with my teammates and my class, graduating and things like that. That’s hard to walk away from before I have to,” Curry said at his press conference. “It took a very positive, beneficial next step for me, an opportunity for me, to give that up. It’s going to be hard to walk away from it.”
The son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, Stephen Curry led Division 1 in scoring at 28.6 points per game.
“As special as he has been to us, he’ll be equally special in the NBA,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity to coach him for these three years.”
Only five NCAA scoring leaders have been first-round draft picks dating back to 1990 and they have enjoyed varying NBA careers. Adam Morrison (3rd pick, 2006) Courtney Alexander (13th, 2000), Kurt Thomas (10th, 1995), Glenn Robinson (1st, 1994), Bo Kimble (8th, 1990).
Ellington and Lawson were both expected to jump to the NBA after the team won the NCAA championship earlier this month over Michigan State in Detroit. They are the sixth and seventh players to leave the Tar Heels early under Roy Williams.
“It’s hard to leave Carolina because of all the great memories and things you learn in college,” said Lawson, a jet-quick point guard who averaged 16.6 points and 6.6 assists. “All the fun I had with my teammates made it a hard decision to make myself available for the NBA Draft.”
Ellington, a 6-3 shooting guard out of Wynnewood, Pa., averaged 15.8 points and 2.7 assists and was the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
“It was definitely a tough decision,” Ellington said. “I loved my time here at Carolina. I had a lot of fun. There’s no better way to end it [than] the way we did.”
Chad Ford of ESPN projects Lawson to go at No. 15 in the draft and Ellington at No. 24.
“I spoke to 13 different NBA teams over the past two weeks and every indication from those people is that this is a good time for the youngsters to go,” Williams said.
The 6-10, 233-pound Majok has yet to play a game at UConn. and has also yet to hire an agent, meaning he could still return to campus. He would become eligible in the second semester of next season. UConn is already losing Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien and A.J. Price to the pros.
“After meeting with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to enter the NBA Draft,” said Majok. “I feel it will help me to test the process and get feedback on my strengths and weaknesses. It will allow me to get a better idea of what areas in my game need improvement and make me a better player in the future. I will not be hiring an agent and I enter this process with the full intention of assessing my abilities and returning to Connecticut in 2009-10.”
“In view of the upcoming rule changes for underclassmen, this is an opportunity for Ater to see where he currently fits into what I believe will be a future in professional basketball,” said UConn head coach Jim Calhoun. “I respect that Ater understands that this decision is about more than just him and that he has, and will continue to, involve his immediate family in this process as it goes forward.”
Ford’s mock draft on ESPN looks like this:
1. PF Blake Griffin – OKlahoma
2. PG Ricky Rubio – Spain
3. C Hasheem Thabeet – UConn
4. SG James Harden – ASU
5. PF Jordan Hill – Arizona
6. SG DeMar Derozan – USC
7. SG Tyreke Evans – Memphis
8. PG Stephen Curry – Davidson
9. PG Brandon Jennings – Italy
10. PF James Johnson – Wake Forest
(Photo courtesy Davidson)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.