NORMAN, Okla. - After assembling one of the most successful individual basketball seasons in University of Oklahoma history that culminated with Sunday's acceptance of the Naismith Trophy as the national player of the year, sophomore Blake Griffin met with reporters Tuesday afternoon to announce that he will forego his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility to enter the 2009 NBA Draft.
Griffin was joined at a media conference at Lloyd Noble Center by OU head coach Jeff Capel.
"First, I want to thank everybody for coming," began Griffin, this year's consensus national player of the year. "This past week I have been going over in my mind what I should do. I sat down with Coach Capel and my family and I think it is time for me to move on and take my game to the next level.
"(The decision) was tough. I love playing here, this is my home state. This is the school I wanted to come to, obviously. It is tough to walk away from something like this, but at the same time this is a big opportunity. I felt like I was ready for it this year as opposed to last year."
Griffin will leave OU as one of the program's most accomplished and decorated players, despite playing just two seasons. As a sophomore, he averaged 22.7 points, 14.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting .654 from the field and registering 30 double-doubles. He paced the Big 12 Conference in scoring, rebounding, double-doubles and field goal percentage, and ranked 11th, first, first and second nationally in the categories, respectively.
The 6-10, 251-pound forward, who was the Big 12 Player of the Year and the only unanimous first-team league selection, set OU and Big 12 single-season records for rebounds (504), rebounding average, field goal percentage and double-doubles. Griffin also set school records for free throw attempts (324) and free throw attempts per game (9.3).
"This is the right decision," said Capel, who received a verbal commitment from Griffin to attend OU almost three years ago. "In my mind, it was a no-brainer. It wasn't a decision to really debate because it is the right one. It is the best thing for Blake, it is the best thing for the University of Oklahoma and the best thing for our program."
Griffin led the Sooners to a 30-6 record this season and to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 28.5 points, 15.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists over OU's four NCAA Tournament games while shooting a staggering .780 from the field.
The Oklahoma City native grabbed more rebounds than any Division I player since Larry Bird in 1978-79 and averaged more rebounds than anyone since Tim Duncan in 1996-97.
Griffin's biggest game statistically this season came Feb. 14 against Texas Tech in Norman when he finished with career highs of 40 points and 23 rebounds to become the first player in Big 12 history to register at least 40 points and 20 boards in a contest. Remarkably, he had a double-double in each half. His 40 points were the most by a Sooner in 15 seasons while his 23 rebounds were the most by an OU player in 20 years.
"This is a great day," said Capel. "It is sad on one end, but it is a great day -- a really, really great day -- when you have a chance to know that a kid has worked his butt off in something that he has wanted to do his whole life and he is going to have a chance to pursue it. And not only pursue it, but to be very successful.
"He is the best player I have ever been around and coached, and he is probably one of the top two people I have ever been around and coached. That is why I know he is going to be incredibly successful."
The NBA Draft will be held June 25 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It will begin at 6 p.m. CDT and be televised by ESPN.