Ebi stays in the draft

Wildcat recruit Ndudi Ebi made it official and announced that he would remain in the NBA Draft. The freshman-to-be looks to be a sure-fire first round draft pick, albeit a later pick in the round. Ebi did say that he was not going to hire an agent right away, but the chances of him enrolling at Arizona are almost nil.

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Ndudi Ebi had originally said that he was only going to stay in the draft if he was a Lottery pick, but apparently the lure of guaranteed money was just too great. Ebi has been projected to go anywhere from 17th to 27th and barring a major shock will be in an NBA uniform next season.

The Wildcats put a lot of time and effort into the recruitment of Ebi, one of the top-5 prospects in the 2003 recruiting class, and the team will certainly miss his athleticism. Despite loosing the nation's top power forward recruit, the coaching staff remains optimistic.

"One player does not make a team," said Wildcat assistant Josh Pastner. "Sure he's going to be great, but we still have guys like Channing Frye, Isaiah Fox, Chris Dunn and Kirk Walters in the program. As long as we have Lute Olson on the sideline we'll be fine."

The loss of Ebi is especially tough on Pastner who was his lead recruiter and is a longtime family friend. Pastner and the staff worked hard to get him, battling the likes of Duke and Texas for his services. Despite losing the crown jewel of an altogether stellar recruiting class, Pastner took things in stride.

"If this is the worst thing that happens to me all day, then things aren't all that bad," Pastner said. "This won't ruin my life or doom the program. Sure, we would have loved to have him, but life goes on. The cup isn't half full or half empty when you see it as overflowing."

The Wildcats will probably go from a preseason top-five ranking to one in the mid-teens, but they still look formidable on paper. They return juniors Isaiah Fox and Channing Frye, giving the Wildcats one of the better starting units of any in the Pac-10. Add to that intriguing freshmen Chris Dunn and Kirk Walters and you have a unit that will still be solid.

"We still have a good, strong team," Pastner said. "This does not make or break us."

Ebi has told the Wildcat coaches that he will not hire an agent and if he does not like his draft position he would consider enrolling at Arizona. Since Ebi has pulled his name from the draft, the NBA team that drafts him will hold his rights for a full year after he concludes his collegiate career. Pastner said the Wildcats are not planning on Ebi at all.

"I wouldn't hold your breath," Pastner said. "He wants to take his game to the next level right away."

Pastner also dismissed any talk of a team drafting Ebi and then "stashing" him in college for a year or two until he can help them.

"He wants to get his (free agency) clock started right away," Pastner said. "I think it is highly unlikely he would go for that, especially with guaranteed money." The Wildcats must now regroup and prepare for life without Ebi. The loss makes a post player a priority in this recruiting class. They will also head into next season with just nine scholarship players. "We lose a great player, but we'll still be great," Pastner said. "I'm disappointed, but I won't lose any sleep or get down about this."

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