Taft states plan for draft; Pitt's Krauser likely next
Pittsburgh sophomore forward Chris Taft announced Monday on ESPN2's Cold Pizza he would declare for and stay in the NBA draft.
Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that he also expected junior point guard Carl Krauser to declare for the draft.
Taft averaged 13.3 points a game and 7.5 rebounds, good for third in scoring and second in rebounding on the team.
Krauser led the Panthers with 16 points and 5.9 assists. Dixon said he doesn't expect Krauser to sign with an agent. Dixon said he would expect Krauser to keep his options open to return to school, but said Krauser told him he wanted to go to the Chicago pre-draft camp in June.
Taft, at 6 feet 10 and 260 pounds, is likely to be among the lottery picks in the draft, according to ESPN Insider Chad Ford. Taft's combination of size, athleticism, strength and power have had NBA scouts pegging him as a top-three pick before the season began.
While his lackluster performance during the regular season raised serious questions about his work ethic and attitude, his performance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament should have helped to resurrect his draft stock.
If he can follow up his solid tournament performance with some great individual workouts, Taft's stock will rise. He's not the stellar prospect he was at the beginning of the season, but in the right system, with the right motivation, Taft still has the most potential of any big guy on the board.
Most scouts still have Taft rated between the Nos. 5 and 10 picks.
With senior forward Chevon Troutman also leaving, Pitt might lose its top three scorers from the 20-9 team that lost its only Big East tournament game, to Villanova, and its only NCAA Tournament game. The Panthers had reached the Big East title game the previous four seasons and the NCAA round of 16 the previous three seasons.
Pitt had a 51-14 record the last two seasons with Taft, Troutman and Krauser as starters, including a 31-5 mark in 2004-05 that represents the most victories in school history.
After a 10-0 start this season, Pitt finished with only 10 wins in its last 19 games, with surprise losses to Bucknell, St. John's, Georgetown and two losses to Big East rival West Virginia.
Taft had a disappointing season after making the Big East preseason first team. Expected to be one of the nation's top big men, he was benched periodically by Dixon for lackadaisical play or defensive letdowns -- sometimes at key stretches of important games.
The 6-foot-2 Krauser, who averaged a team-high 16 points and 5.9 assists, is less likely to be an early round pick. It is possible he might not hire an agent and, depending what happens in the draft, could choose to return to Pitt.
However, Krauser would be 24 next season, and said after the Pacific loss that, because of his age, it might make sense to turn pro now.
If Taft and Krauser leave, Pitt's leading returning scorer going into next season will be guard Antonio Graves (7.8 points).
ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz, ESPN Insider Chad Ford and The Associated Press contributed to this report.