Prep star joins Deng in seeking pro ranks

5/4/2004 - Duke Blue Devils

Duke's chances of getting back to the Final Four took another hit when signee Shaun Livingston declared for the NBA draft Monday.

Livingston's announcement comes a week after Duke freshman Luol Deng declared for the draft.

The 6-foot-7 point guard is projected to go in the top five in the June NBA draft, possibly at No. 4 to the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. Deng could go a spot higher, possibly to Chicago if the Bulls get the No. 3 pick.

Neither player will sign with an agent so as to retain their amateur status. If they both stay in the draft, then Duke will have only eight scholarship players for the 2004-05 season.

According to sources at Duke, Livingston called head coach Mike Krzyzewski Monday to tell him of his decision. The Duke staff was supportive, having been prepared for Livingston's announcement. The Peoria Central prep star has been billed as the top point guard in the draft throughout the season.

Livingston told the Peoria Journal Star on Monday that calling Krzyzewski was "one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.''

Like Deng, Livingston kept the door open to playing for Duke next season. But both players are expected to stay in the draft because of their high lottery projections.

Duke still has one of the top starting lineups for next season, with forwards Shelden Williams, Shavlik Randolph and guards Daniel Ewing, J.J. Redick and Sean Dockery. Livingston was expected to step in for departing senior Chris Duhon. Instead, Dockery will get the nod as Duhon's heir apparent. The Blue Devils will have Lee Melchionni and incoming freshmen David McClure and DeMarcus Nelson coming off the bench.

Duke doesn't plan on adding any more players for next season. The Duke staff will wait to see if Deng and/or Livingston decide to play for the Blue Devils next season. If they do, both will have scholarships and likely starting spots.

But Duke might have to wait awhile as the deadline to withdraw from the draft is June 17, a week before the June 24 draft. Deng would have to pull out to return but Livingston, like all high school seniors, could go through the draft and still go to college. But if he does, and is selected, then the NBA team would own his draft rights until a year after his eligibility expired. If either signs with an agent, they lose their amateur status.

Duke lost to eventual champion Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament semifinals in April.

Livingston is the seventh high school senior to declare for the NBA draft, joining Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair and Dorell Wright. Robert Swift, of Bakersfield, Calif., is expected to declare this week without signing with an agent, keeping his option open to attend USC. Howard, Josh Smith and Telfair are all staying in the draft and won't be attending college. Jefferson could still go to Arkansas, J.R. Smith to North Carolina and Wright to DePaul.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.