Ekpe Udoh did wonders for himself, Baylor
You will be hard-pressed to find a college basketball player this season who did more to progress his own career path and elevate his program than Baylor junior power forward Ekpe Udoh.
Udoh completed an epic campaign in his first season with the Bears, leading the school to a record 28 victories and its first Elite Eight appearance. And on Tuesday, the 6-foot-10 shot-blocker extraordinaire and much more made did the inevitable, making his intentions known that he will declare for the 2010 NBA draft in June.
Initially, he said he would not immediately hire an agent, but that was only because he has yet to find one he is comfortable with. Bears fans, if only for a second, held out hope of a return. But, that will not be the case. His father, Sam, said as much.
"I think it was very difficult for him to make the decision," Sam Udoh said. "He is leaning very much to the NBA. If he is not, I don't think he would have declared for the draft."
Quite simply, the NBA money is too good pass up. Udoh is projected as a late lottery pick. If drafted, he will sign a guaranteed two-year contract with an opportunity to later extend it by another three years and bank millions of dollars.
There's a significant factor at play for any player contemplating turning pro. The NBA's cloudy labor picture threatens to wipe out the 2011-12 season with a work stoppage, the season after what would be Udoh's senior year. A new collective bargaining agreement will eventually be hammered out and the league is looking to revamp the salary structure, and that would assuredly include a reduction in the value of current rookie contracts.
Udoh, who established a school and Big 12 season blocks records with 133 and was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and a second-team All-Big 12 selection, averaged 13.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.7 blocks and 2.7 assists in 36 games. His outstanding performances in the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA tournament only increased his draft stock.
Udoh spent his first two seasons at Michigan before deciding to transfer to Baylor. When he arrived in Waco two years ago, Udoh was known as good defender who lacked a consistent offensive game. While sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, he spent every day in the gym with former Baylor assistant Matt Driscoll (now head coach at North Florida) and refined his offensive attack, which includes an array of low-post moves, dribble-drives and mid-range jumpers.
Baylor fans would certainly have loved to have seen Udoh back in green-and-gold, especially with leader Tweety Carter graduating. Baylor will lose three starters in all, including 7-foot center Josh Lomers.
But, now Baylor fans can turn their attention to the next big thing in McDonald's All-American forward Perry Jones out of Duncanville.
In his heart, Udoh might have liked to have stayed one more season. But, his head made the right decision. Really, he had no other choice.
"My time here was great. It was the best time of my life," Udoh said. "I have got 13 new brothers. I got a coaching staff that I can ride with until I die."
And in the end, Udoh's venture to the NBA will work in coach Scott Drew's favor. He will soon have a player in the NBA, and all recruits love to hear that.
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