Darius Morris commits to NBA draft
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan guard Darius Morris is staying in the NBA draft.
The sophomore point guard had declared for the draft but could have returned to the Wolverines if he'd withdrawn by May 8. Instead, he'll forgo his remaining eligibility, meaning Michigan will have to replace one of its most important players as it tries to build on last season's impressive finish.
Brennan: Surprise, Surprise
ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan thinks Darius Morris' decision to stay in the NBA draft might just be the "most surprising early entry decision" yet. Blog
"There have been long discussions with my family, friends and my Michigan coaches," Morris said. "In the end I decided to go with my heart. Playing professional basketball has always been a dream for me. I feel this is the right time for me to pursue that goal. It will be hard to leave the University of Michigan. However, I truly believe the basketball program is moving in a very positive direction."
Morris averaged 15 points and 6.7 assists a game last season. His ability to penetrate and find open teammates was a key part of coach John Beilein's offense.
Michigan recovered from a 1-6 start in Big Ten play to make the NCAA tournament. Once there, the Wolverines routed Tennessee in their first game before falling 73-71 to Duke when Morris just missed a shot that would have tied the game.
"We, as a staff, have watched Darius grow as a person and as a player these past two years," Beilein said. "His improvement on the court has been the result of his God-given talent and his intense desire to become the best player he can be. His work habits, especially in our individual skill development time, have been outstanding, and we all witnessed the results of his efforts this season."
This is the second straight offseason Michigan has lost a key player early to the draft. Last year it was Manny Harris, who ended up with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Wolverines pulled together without him and were a much better team this past season, but it remains to be seen whether they can do the same without Morris.
His departure likely means a more important role for Tim Hardaway Jr., the talented guard who came on strong at the end of his freshman season. Stu Douglass, who will be a senior next season, is the heir apparent at point guard.
With no seniors on the roster last season, Michigan appeared to have a promising future. That might still be true, but Morris will be difficult to replace after breaking the school's single-season record with 235 assists.
"Darius has been a catalyst in the continued growth of our program and we wish him nothing but the best in his professional basketball career and beyond," Beilein said. "He will always be a Michigan Wolverine."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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