USC's Nikola Vucevic declares for draft
LOS ANGELES -- University of Southern California junior forward Nikola Vucevic will forgo his senior season to enter the 2011 NBA draft and has signed with agent Rade Filipovich of Bill Duffy's BDA Sports Management, he announced Friday.
The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Vucevic, 20, averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds in 34 games for the Trojans in 2010-2011, earning All-Pac-10 First Team honors and leading USC to the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"I just felt like this was the right time for me to leave," Vucevic said. "I think I showed a lot of things that I can do at this level. I made improvements each year, and I think that this year I showed what I can do.
"I'm ready as a person and as a player. I'm mature enough and it was just the perfect opportunity for me."
The Trojans' season ended nine days ago in Dayton, Ohio, with a loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Both Vucevic and USC coach Kevin O'Neill said after that game that his decision on the NBA would come a few weeks in the future, after proper consultation between Vucevic and his family, O'Neill and a number of basketball people.
Evidently the consultation took less time than they expected. Vucevic met with O'Neill on Thursday in his office at Galen Center to officially give him the news, and O'Neill recommended that Vucevic host the Friday news conference.
"I support, absolutely, what Nik is doing," O'Neill said Friday. "I would've supported it if he stayed, I would've supported it if he [went], and I do support big-time that he's making a 100 percent commitment to doing it, because I don't think you can do anything like the NBA halfway."
Vucevic also referenced being fully invested as his reasoning for signing with an agent immediately after declaring, as opposed to testing the waters first and waiting until the NBA-mandated deadline of May 8 to decide whether to return to school.
"I just feel like if you do something, you have to go into it 100 percent," he said. "I felt like testing the waters usually doesn't end up very well.
"It's a lot easier if you give everything you have into it, because if you're in-between it's hard to do stuff. You have to be fully focused on it."
Filipovich, who represents European NBA players Andris Biedrins and Goran Dragic, has known Vucevic's father, Borislav, for more than 30 years through European professional basketball league connections.
He praised the younger Vucevic's versatility, both in terms of the possible positions he could play at the next level, and his ability to play professionally in Europe without restrictions because of his Montenegrin citizenship.
That looms large as the NBA nears a potential lockout next season, which has many potential early entrants thinking twice about skipping out on college.
"If there is a lockout, I can go anywhere," Vucevic said. "I'm from Europe, so I have a chance to go and play overseas. I thought about it, but it didn't really bother me because I know there is another opportunity if there is a lockout."
Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com.