At the end of the day and despite some conflicted feelings, Arkansas sophomore forward Bobby Portis decided that the time was right to take his talents to “The Association.”
Portis - the SEC Player of the Year and a second-team Associated Press All-American - announced his decision to apply for the 2015 NBA Draft via Twitter on Tuesday morning.
He and Razorback head coach Mike Anderson - who is still waiting to hear an NBA decision from Arkansas junior guard Michael Qualls - then met with the media on Tuesday afternoon.
“Today is a good day for me to try to take that next step and go to the NBA,” Portis said. “All kids grow up wanting to go to the NBA. For me, I finally have that first chance this year. So I took that opportunity and tried to run with it.
“Thanks to Coach A for always having that trust in me on and off the court. He made me a captain this year as a sophomore, and I think that's big for me and my teammates.
“Thanks to my teammates for always having that trust in me on the court, passing the ball to me, even when I'm hollering, 'Give me the ball, give me the ball!'.
“Thanks to (Razorback assistant) Coach (Matt) Z(immerman) for staying late in the gym with me and always rebounding for me. And thanks to all the managers, too, and Coach (Melvin) Watkins and Coach (T.J.) Cleveland. Y'all are a part of my family now. It's just something I'm proud of. Thank y'all and God bless.”
Anderson raved about Portis, who averaged 17.5 points and 8.9 rebounds this season.
“He is a great ballplayer,” Anderson said. “We know that. But he has been a great, great ambassador. A great, great role model for a lot of young players, a lot of young people in the state of Arkansas and around the country. We could not have a better representative than Bobby Portis.
“And so to be here today as he makes this statement, I couldn't be no more prouder of Bobby Portis, player of the year in our league. Things that haven't taken place here in 20 years, that tells you how special he is. Not only how special Bobby is but his teammates as well. He will be the first to say that.”
Portis said he made the decision last Tuesday, but has been struggling with it since the NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina and Arkansas finished the season 27-9 and in the Big Dance after a seven-year absence.
“For 22 days I've been going back and forth with staying and leaving,” Portis said. “Kind of just at war with myself. I didn’t want to make anyone mad, about if I leave they're going to say this. And I didn't want to stay and have regrets. So at the same time I feel like I have to make a decision for myself.
“It was kind of hard because I grew up here playing. Wearing that Razorbacks jersey was always special to me, putting that No. 10 on. I didn't want to let that go.
“Even in my last game against North Carolina I didn't want to take my jersey off because I was contemplating on should I stay or should I leave then immediately after the game. It was kind of tough on me just to make this decision, but I had to make one for myself and not anyone else.”
Portis said he made the decision after sitting down with Anderson and hearing the information that had come back from the NBA.
“I just kind of sit down and told him then that I thought I was ready to make that next step,” Portis said.
He noted that he put on a Trey Songz song last night after the team’s basketball banquet was over and he went back to his room.
“Last night I played this song ‘I don’t want to leave, but I got to go right now.’
“It was a tough decision for me just because growing up in the state of Arkansas and being a native of this state, I felt like I was a great ambassador for our basketball team and for our program - not just for the basketball team, but the whole entire Razorbacks.
“I kind of stepped it up a notch. Man, I want to cry, but I ain’t going to cry. I kind of put it on another pedestal for kind of like (Bentonville junior star) Malik Monk to try and come here and do the same thing I did.
“I believe I showed kids that you don’t have to go to Kentucky or Florida just to try and live your dreams. Coach Anderson and his staff gets it done here.”
?Portis’ mom Tina works during the night driving a bread delivery truck to support Portis and his three brothers.
“It was a big part, just because my mom works from 2 a.m. to 1 p.m,” Portis said That's an 11-hour shift for any person. That's a tough burden on anyone.
“I just want to take that next step, not just for her, but for myself. I'm not doing this for my mom or anything. I'm doing this for Bobby Portis just because I feel like I'm ready to take that next step. Go on about my basketball career.
He noted in the end the decision was left to himself.
“I believe so,” Portis said. “Just because my mom wanted me to make the decision for me and not her. That's something that she always preaching, me not trying to make a decision for her, just to change her life and my little brothers' lives. She wants me to live my dream and to be the best basketball player I can be.
Anderson made it clear that he was extremely proud of Portis.
“…At the end of the day, this was Bobby’s decision,” Anderson said. “I think one thing about it is, for him, I think he made the right decision.
“He has done some great things here for us at the University, took us some places we haven’t been in awhile, but I think he has just started something that is going to continue to take place.
“When you elite players having the opportunity to come in and having the place to showcase the God-given talents, well, he took my word on it - when I sit there with both he and his mom.
“Because there are a lot places that he could have went, a lot of programs that he could have went to, but he chose the University of Arkansas and so in a matter of a year, two years he has the opportunity to go and leave his dream.
“It is a big statement in a lot of ways and I am sure that the basketball people out there, the NBA teams and hopefully the recruits understand that we get it done here at the University of Arkansas.
“Our kids they develop, they do it the right way on and off the floor and when they leave here they will be ready, not only for the NBA, but the real world.”
Portis Breaks Down Decision To Pro
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