Humphries hires agent, so no turning back

Updated: April 10, 2004, 12:38 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kris Humphries' only season at Minnesota was an individual success, yet a trying one for the team.

Now the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year is turning pro, leaving the Gophers to continue their rehabilitation.

Humphries announced Thursday he will leave school and enter the NBA draft.

"It feels like it's the right time for me," said Humphries, who became the first freshman to lead the Big Ten in both scoring and rebounding.

"It's tough to go," he said at a news conference at Williams Arena, "but I feel like I made the right decision."

Humphries has signed with an agent, ending any chance that he could return next season. He signed with Dan Fegan, who represents Ndudi Ebi of the Minnesota Timberwolves and other players, Humphries' father, William, said Saturday.

Time will tell, but Humphries -- a 6-foot-9 forward with a powerful inside game -- appears more ready than Rick Rickert, who left the Gophers after his sophomore season and was chosen by the Timberwolves late in the second round last year.

It's difficult to forecast at this point where he will land in the draft, since there are sure to be more underclassmen -- as well as high school and international players -- in the mix. Only a handful of college seniors are expected to go in the first round.

"I definitely think he's a top 20 or maybe a late lottery pick," said Chris Monter, a Twin Cities-based draft expert who publishes the Monter Draft News and is close to the Humphries family.

"He's maybe not as tall as the prototypical power forward and maybe he doesn't have the quickness of a small forward, but one thing I like about him is he works hard," Monter said. "He needs to work on putting the ball on the floor a little better and at times being a little bit more unselfish, but he had an outstanding season. For a freshman, that's incredible."

Humphries consulted with his parents, coach Dan Monson and former NBA players Trent Tucker, Richard Coffey and Chris Carr. He said he didn't make a final decision until Wednesday night.

In seeking information from NBA sources, Monson received positive feedback.

"Everywhere he's gone, he's scored and he's rebounded," Monson said. "A lot of teams can use that."

The Gophers' 12-18 season had no bearing on his departure, Humphries said, nor did he have a preconceived idea of how long he'd stay in college.

"I was going to stay until I was ready," he said.

Tucker, who played for the Gophers from 1979-82 and had an 11-year NBA career, is confident Humphries will succeed.

"For any rookie going into the league, it's a whole different world," Tucker said. "I think the reason guys pick it up faster than others is they listen. I told him, 'Just continue to work very hard every day and listen and learn from the people that are in the game. The more things you can pick up from veteran players, the better off you're going to be."'

Monson sat next to Humphries at the news conference, just like he did exactly one year ago in the same room when Rickert announced his decision to leave.

"I'm excited for Kris," Monson said. "He's represented this university with nothing but class through a difficult year for this program.

Humphries averaged 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Gophers, who tied Penn State for the worst record in the conference at 3-13.

The program is finally off probation, five years after the academic fraud scandal, but the Gophers will be thin inside next season -- with Jeff Hagen the most experienced post player. Incoming freshman Spencer Tollackson should be an immediate contributor.

"We've got holes to fill," Monson said. "We've got to build."

Humphries is the third player to declare for the draft early since Monson took over in 1999-2000. (Joel Przybilla was the first.)

"That's the way it is for college coaches now," Monson said. "You get good players and you can't sit there and say you're going to have them for four years."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press