Morrison to sign with agent, enter NBA draft

Updated: April 19, 2006, 8:19 PM ET
Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Gonzaga All-America Adam Morrison, who overcame diabetes to become the leading scorer in the nation, said Wednesday he will skip his senior year and make himself available to the NBA draft.

The 6-foot-8 forward is widely expected to be drafted in the first round on June 28, and some analysts have him going among the top three picks.

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Adam Morrison has several characteristics of an NBA star. He can score, is a fearless leader and competitor and has a very good, though not great, jump shot.

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Morrison said he had a verbal agreement "etched in stone" with Chicago-based agent Mark Bartelstein, who also represents former Gonzaga stars Dan Dickau and Blake Stepp, and Chicago Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, brother of Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo. That agreement means Morrison will not be able to change his mind and return for his senior year.

"The simple fact is I want to compete at the next level," Morrison said at a news conference on campus.

Morrison, who scored 28.1 points per game last season, suffers from Type A diabetes but does not expect that to hamper him.

"Diabetes was never a factor in my career and it won't be at the next level," he said.

Although Morrison said it was difficult to leave a Top 25 program in his hometown, he added he felt ready to compete in the NBA.

"I'll finally have a chance to be a fan of Gonzaga again," Morrison said.

The West Coast Conference player of the year, Morrison edged Duke's J.J. Redick for this year's national scoring title. He finished second to Redick for the Naismith and John R. Wooden Awards for college basketball's player of the year.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few said his staff and team were "ecstatic" for Morrison.

"This truly is a great day. A great day for Adam, a great day for our basketball program and me personally," Few said. "It's the right decision because he and his family went about it the right way. ... It's what he wants to do and he is ready for it. He's going to be a great player at the next level."

Morrison, perhaps the most decorated athlete in Gonzaga history, surpassed the college accomplishments of Gonzaga legend John Stockton. But it remains to be seen if he can have the same impact on the NBA, as critics have complained about his defense and downplayed his passing and rebounding abilities.

There is no doubt Morrison can shoot, making nearly 50 percent of his shots, including 43 percent of 3-pointers, even with defenders hanging all over him. Morrison drew comparisons to Larry Bird, for a similar high release on his jump shot, and Pete Maravich and other scoring greats of the past.

Morrison, 21, scored at least 30 points 14 times this season and five times scored at least 40 points as he became the second Bulldogs player to win the national scoring title. Frank Burgess accomplished the feat by averaging 32.4 ppg in 1960-61.

Adam Morrison
Morrison has until April 29 to officially declare for the draft.

Morrison's 926 points this year topped Burgess' single-season school record of 842 during 1960-61.

In three seasons at Gonzaga, Morrison scored 1,867 points to rank third on the Bulldog's all-time scoring list, behind Burgess (2,196) and Jim McPhee (2,015).

Gonzaga finished 29-4 this season, and in Morrison's three seasons went 83-12, including 40-2 in the WCC.

Gonzaga was the only team that offered Morrison a scholarship out of suburban Spokane's Mead High School, even though he was the leading scorer in the history of the Greater Spokane League.

He averaged 11.4 points per game as a freshman, and led the team with 19 ppg as a sophomore.

This season, Morrison exploded into national attention by scoring 43 points against Michigan State at the Maui Invitational. His emotional play (in one game he got so carried away he slammed the basketball into his head several times) and on-court swagger made him a TV favorite and a lightning rod for opposing fans.

He thanked his teammates for staying together even as attention was focused on him.

"The light shined on me when it could have been somebody else," Morrison said

Morrison also became a role model for diabetics. Cameras showed him constantly monitoring his blood sugar during games, and giving himself insulin injections while on the bench.

A thin mustache he cultivated this year became a source of jokes and jeers from opposing fans and even teammates.

He made the cover of numerous sports magazines, including Sports Illustrated twice in one month this season.

Morrison reveled in the attention, scoring 43 points against Washington, 34 points against Memphis, 34 against Stanford, and a career high 44 against Loyola Marymount.

He scored 24 points in Gonzaga's 73-71 loss to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen.

In a recent interview in Sports Illustrated, Morrison said he felt he needed to move quickly because of uncertainty over his future health.

"Time is of the essence," Morrison told the magazine. "I'm going to deteriorate a little faster than anyone else."

Morrison became only the second Gonzaga player to come out early for the NBA draft, joining center Paul Rogers, a second-round pick by the Lakers in 1997

He is the second first-team All-America in team history, after Dan Dickau in 2002, and is likely to be the highest draft pick in team history. Stockton was the 16th player chosen in 1984 and Dickau was the 28th player chosen in 2002.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press