TIREY: Morris Says Hello NBA, Goodbye Kentucky

Randolph Morris made his decision on whether or not to stay in the NBA draft this year a personal one. After all the speculation about a press conference, a written statement, or a dramatic scene, it ended up being a decision he may not have shared with anyone, had it not been for a meddlesome, but persistent reporter (yours truly).

After several tries at the Morris residence in Georgia, Randolph's father, Ralph, finally picked up the telephone receiver and broke the news and the hearts of many UK basketball fans. Randolph has decided to stay in the NBA draft. His college eligibility has ended and Kentucky, Tubby Smith, and the fans will have to go on without him.

The elder Morris said the decision was extremely hard for Randolph, but in the end his dreams won over any other factors. "I think it was very difficult for him to make," said Ralph Morris. "He did a lot of soul searching and he came to the conclusion that this was just something he wanted to do right now. I think he mentioned in his conversation with you in Chicago [at his private workout during the NBA pre-draft camp], this was a dream that he wanted to pursue, and I think he felt that this was the time for him to go and pursue it."

Randolph is going into the draft with cryptic messages, at best, from the NBA personnel that have seen him work out so far. Actually, one gets the feeling talking to either Randolph or his father, that they don't care what the NBA people are saying. "They weren't real specific. They just basically said he looked good, he shot the ball real well, and that he has a great body. They said he showed well." No guarantees have been made to either of the Morris'. Ralph made sure to include that no team has told them that Randolph would be their first round pick.

As for closing the book on Randolph's time at Kentucky, Ralph shed some light on some comments he made in Chicago that made it sound as if they were not happy with how Randolph was used at UK. "For the most part, I was happy with his time there. I thought he grew through the course of the year. It was a difficult transition for him. You know, acclimating to school, being away from home, acclimating to the solid play in the SEC, et cetera. But we're a close-knit group. We lean on each other for support." Ralph did have a message for the UK fans that supported Randolph over the past year and through the draft process. "I am very much appreciative for them accepting him and cheering him on. I would also be appreciative of them being understanding and supportive of his decision to follow that dream that he has, of playing in the NBA.

So now, UK can move forward knowing they still have three seven footers to take the place of Randolph Morris, their starting center from last year. All the hand wringing the fans have done over the past month can cease, and plans for next season can be made. The only thing Kentucky fans hope is, that it doesn't take all three seven footers to make up the paltry eight points and four rebounds a game that Morris gave them last year.

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