Gay to leave UConn for NBA draft

Updated: April 24, 2006, 4:20 PM ET news services

STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut forward Rudy Gay said Monday he will forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the NBA draft.

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The 6-foot-9 Gay averaged a team-best 15.2 points a game this past season, and is projected to be a lottery pick. He also averaged 6.4 rebounds and had a team-high 56 steals for the Huskies (30-4).

"It was a tough decision. It took a lot of time, a lot of thought," Gay said. "When you sign on the dotted line to go to college, you plan on being there four years. When I came to UConn I didn't think about any time period or any time when I should leave."

The scouting reports helped that decision for him.

Based on his conversations with NBA executives and scouts, UConn coach Jim Calhoun said Gay is projected to be taken in the top six of the June 28 draft.

"This is the time for a tremendously talented guy to take advantage of a tremendous opportunity," Calhoun said. "I see nothing but greatness ahead for him. There's no question that Rudy will fulfill the promise that those people who draft him have in him."

A prep star out of Archbishop Spalding in Severn, Md., Gay appeared in 64 games for UConn and finished averaging 13.6 points a game. A consensus All-American as a sophomore, he was one of four finalists for the Naismith player of the year.

The athletic and rangy Gay delighted UConn fans over the past two years with his thunderous dunks, but could never consistently take over a game. Calhoun pointed out that Gay was surrounded by veteran players like seniors Rashad Anderson, Hilton Armstrong and Denham Brown and his numbers were in line with being on a very deep team that for a while was ranked No. 1 in the country.

"The year he just put together, the kid got overlooked a little bit," Calhoun said. "He was having a terrific year on a terrific team. We never would have been [No. 1] without Rudy."

Gay had a career-high 28 points in the Maui Invitational against Arkansas. He scored 20 in the Huskies' loss to George Mason in the NCAA regional final in Washington.

He is the second underclassman to leave early for the Huskies this year. Junior Josh Boone has entered himself in the draft but hasn't hired an agent, allowing him the option of returning to school next season. He has until June 18 to withdraw from the draft.

Connecticut is also expecting junior point guard Marcus Williams to announce his intentions to leave for the NBA and sign with an agent later this week.

The Connecticut coaching staff said throughout the season that they expected Gay to be gone. They also anticipated Williams' departure. That's in part why the Huskies signed six players in the fall. UConn was already losing four seniors. So, the Huskies will have a North Carolina-like exodus if Boone stays in the draft with their top six players gone from the 30-4 co-Big East champs. The top returning scorer would be freshman forward Jeff Adrien (6.5 ppg).

The deadline to declare for the draft is April 29.

Gay is the 10th UConn player to declare early for the draft. Previous players were Donyell Marshall, Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin, Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor and Charlie Villanueva.

Gay made his announcement at a news conference attended by his family, teammates and Calhoun and the rest of the UConn staff.

Saying goodbye to his teammates was the toughest part of Gay's decision.

"It's like a family. All the guys were there to support me," he said. "I will do the same for them."

Gay expects life to get really hectic now.

"I know it's going to get crazy now,"' he said Monday. "Now [basketball] is a job. It's something I have to do. I have to put on my suit and tie and go to work."

The 19-year-old Gay can punch in on draft day, June 28. First-round picks get a guaranteed two-year contract with an option for a third. Gay is already feeling some rookie jitters.

"No matter how many people tell me what I can do, it's me stepping into a situation, so there is going to be a little bit of nervousness," he said. "I'm leaving school, I'm leaving a lot of people I have good relationships with. It was a tough decision. It took a lot of time, a lot of thought. But then again, I'm ready."

Information from The Associated Press and senior writer Andy Katz was used in this report.