Isaiah Thomas leaving, no matter what

Updated: March 31, 2011, 10:47 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Isaiah Thomas' statement announcing his intention to enter the NBA draft was straightforward.

When Washington's star guard was pressed about how serious he was, Thomas didn't dance around the question.

He's done with college ball. It's straight to the pros now.

"It is a goodbye," Thomas said Thursday in a conference call. "I'm sorry to say it but I feel like it's just at the right time for me to make this decision and I'm just not going to hire an agent as of right now, not until I really feel like I need to."

It was a surprising decision by the junior, who in the moments after the Huskies lost to North Carolina in the third round of the NCAA tournament indicated he planned to return for his final season on Montlake.

Instead, the talented, undersized guard is going to take his shot at the next level. Thomas said it doesn't matter what the NBA talent evaluators say in the time between the decision and the May 8 deadline for underclassmen to withdraw their name from consideration and return to school.

"I feel like with the guards coming out this year I have a chance of going high in the draft," Thomas said. "I feel I can showcase my talent and like I said, I don't feel like it's a real strong draft class with the point guards this year and I'm just very confident in myself and I've prayed on this decision and feel it's the right move for me and my family."

He was a two-time all-Pac-10 first-team selection and was in the running for player of the year honors in the conference before Arizona pulled away to win the regular-season title behind forward Derrick Williams.

But Thomas saved some of his best play for the end of the year, especially in the Pac-10 tournament, where he played 123 of a possible 125 minutes in three games and hit the winning shot in overtime to beat Arizona 79-77 in the conference title game.

It was Washington's second straight Pac-10 tournament title and Thomas was selected the most outstanding player. He was also an honorable mention AP All-America selection and finished the year averaging 16.8 points and 6.1 assists.

"If Isaiah was going to come back to college it was going to be more just to be with his guys," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said Thursday night.

"In Isaiah's case he was much more concerned with making it to the next level. That's what he wanted."

Romar said he talked to NBA personnel following the Huskies' season and the consensus was Thomas would be drafted, but there were no specifics on where he would go.

"He's always been doubted because of his size and this will be the ultimate experience for him to go out and obtain his goal," Romar added.

Thomas' NBA value may be at its highest point as well. He spent more than half of this season playing point guard -- likely the only position he could play in the NBA -- after a season-ending injury to Abdul Gaddy.

Previously, Thomas had never been asked to play significant minutes at the point with the Huskies, but showed himself more than capable. He finished with 10 or more assists five times after never reaching double figures in assists in each of his first two seasons at Washington.

At the same time, his scoring didn't fall off, finishing his junior season with an almost identical scoring average to his sophomore campaign -- 16.9 to 16.8 points.

Thomas said he's heard he could be drafted as high as the middle of the first round. He's most often compared to former Washington guard Nate Robinson, who was taken 21st overall by the New York Knicks in 2005. Robinson is more athletic, but Thomas might have better basketball skills.

Thomas is sixth on Washington's career scoring list, third in assists and third in made 3-pointers. He is two quarters shy of finishing his degree at Washington and he intends on finishing.

Thomas said the short window to gauge his draft prospects before the deadline to withdraw is partly why his decision is so definitive.

"When I made this decision, whether it was to come back to school or leave to go to the NBA, I wanted to take it on with a full head of steam and just have my focus on whatever it was that was at hand and that's making my dream come true and playing basketball in the NBA," he said.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press