Mississippi State signee Monta Ellis will declare for the NBA draft instead of going to play for the Bulldogs, Ellis told ESPN.com on Monday afternoon.
The Lainier (Miss.) High scoring guard is rated as the second best player in the high school class of 2005, according to scouthoops.com. He said he is in the process of interviewing agents and will make a final decision in the coming days.
"This has always been a dream of mine," Ellis said. "This is the best move for me to put my name in the draft."
Ellis becomes the fourth high school player to officially declare for the draft, joining Oklahoma State signee Gerald Green (Gulf Shores Academy in Houston, Texas), unsigned Andray Blatche of South Kent Prep School (Conn.) and Memphis signee Shawne Williams (Laurinburg Prep, N.J.). Green is probably the highest-rated of the bunch but has said he would keep his options open and not sign with an agent.
There could be more forthcoming as Washington signee Martell Webster (Seattle Prep School), Georgia signee Louis Williams (South Gwinnett High in Snellville, Ga.), unsigned Brandon Rush (Mount Zion Academy in Durham, N.C.), Kansas signee Julian Wright (Homewood-Flossmoor High in Ill.) and Alabama signee Richard Hendrix (Athens High in Ala.) all have decisions to make. Eight high school seniors went in the first round in the 2004 NBA draft.
Ellis said he told the Bulldogs that this was always a possibility. He said he wants to prove to NBA teams that he can play point guard and defend taller and stronger point guards. A year ago, high school point guards Shaun Livingston and Sebastian Telfair went in the lottery to the Clippers (four) and Blazers (13), respectively.
"I can shoot better than those two guys," Ellis said in trying to sell himself as an NBA point guard. "I can show that I'm an all-around basketball player. I'm not critical of other players' games but I know I can be seen as a better high school player coming in, even though those two guys are great players."
Mississippi State is set at point guard for 2005-06 with Gary Ervin. But they needed Ellis to be a scoring wing, something they don't have for next season. The Bulldogs continue to get burned by players leaving early. They have lost Jonathan Bender, Travis Outlaw, Mario Austin and now Ellis before either arriving or finishing their career with the Bulldogs.
"One of these days we'll be able to get one of these kids to stay home," Mississippi State assistant Robert Kirby said.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said the Bulldogs are still hoping that Ellis won't sign with an agent to keep his options open of still going to school. Ellis is not considered a lock for the first round, but he could move up through workouts over the next two months. Ellis was expected to workout at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Stansbury said Ellis would have helped offset the youth movement because he was such an explosive scorer.
The Bulldogs did add Reginald Delk of North Side High in Jackson, Tenn., who will be counted on more to score. The Bulldogs lose starting wing Shane Power as well as forward Lawrence Roberts, a former SEC player of the year. Oak Hill Academy (Va.) shooting guard Jamont Gordon will have an impact as well. The Bulldogs are also expecting plenty of production from Luthern Christian (Philadelphia) center Vernon Goodridge.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.