Durant: 'It's My Time to Go'

He concedes it was the toughest decision he has ever made. Ultimately, the opportunity to immediately realize a lifelong dream prompted Longhorn All-American Kevin Durant to declare for NBA Draft Tuesday.

"It was tough because I didn't want to leave my teammates," Kevin Durant said, "but I had to make the right decision for myself. I think my teammates and my coaches understood that. It (playing in the NBA) has been my dream for a while. I felt like I was ready."

Durant said he finally reached his decision Sunday night after returning from Los Angeles where he became the second Texas player in four years to receive the John Wooden Award honoring the nation's top collegiate player. Durant informed head coach Rick Barnes of his decision on Monday.

"I told him it was time for me to take my game to the next level," Durant said. "He told me he was happy for me, so I'm happy, too."

Durant also said he managed to defer any consideration of a professional career until the completion of the recent collegiate basketball season. The Horns finished 25-10 and No. 16 nationally in the final USA-Today (coaches) poll. During that span, Barnes has repeatedly said that he has few qualms about a player leaving school after one year to pursue life-long goals.

"I'm excited for Kevin," Barnes said. "As a coach or teacher, your job is to help your student-athletes realize their dreams. There's no doubt that Kevin, and along with every player that we've coached, that their dream is to one day play in the NBA. He had a decision to make and his dream was to go after it. Every one goes to college to better themselves. Obviously, this opportunity presents itself for him right now. It's a great opportunity for him and I'm excited for him. Very few get to see their dreams come so early in life."

Durant plans to hire an agent, but the 18 year-old said he would defer that decision to his parents. However, he said he had little apprehension about going into the so-called 'real world'.

"It's going to be a tough challenge, but I'm looking forward to it."

The first freshman in NCAA history to earn consensus National Player of the Year honors, Durant led the Big 12 conference in scoring (25.8 ppg), rebounding (11.1 rpg) and blocked shots (67). He was the only player to rank in the Top 10 nationally in both scoring (fourth) and rebounding (fourth).

"Kevin's got a great gift," Barnes added. "We were fortunate at The University of Texas to have him share that gift and to have been part of us for a year. What he has accomplished this year as a college basketball player had never been done."

The late afternoon press conference interrupted a team workout in which Durant was a participant. The entire team, Durant's parents and a near-capacity throng of media were on hand at the Cooley Pavillion on the Texas campus to receive Durant's announcement. Durant said he intends to continue to workout with teammates until the NBA Draft scheduled for June 28 in New York City. He also expects to complete the spring semester and eventually receive his degree from Texas.

"I'm going to keep going to class, there's no doubt about that," Durant said. "I wouldn't do anything to hurt the program. I'm going to sit down with my parents and my academic advisor to come up with a plan for me to come back and continue to get my degree."

It's simply the nature of college basketball that the more highly-talented players are likely to remain in school for just one or two seasons, Barnes noted. Yet, Barnes reiterated a pledge not to recruit players who might fall completely away from classroom commitments simply because they declared early for the Draft.

"Kevin could walk away today and not go to class," Barnes continued, "but that's not what he's about. We knew that about him quickly in the recruiting process. There was a standard that not only he expected but also his mom and dad expected that he was going to go college and not just be a basketball player. I could sit here and talk about his basketball, but we're probably more impressed in the way he's attacked it academically."

Durant is expected to be among the top two players selected, but he said draft order -- as well as a potential apparel deal (reportedly with Nike) -- is of little concern to him.

"I don't want to just be a player in the NBA," Durant said, "I want to have an impact. I don't want to just go and be a regular player. I feel it's my time to go."

Texas returns four starters next season, including point guard D.J. Augustin who shared the Most Valuable Player Award with Durant (as voted by his teammates) at the annual Longhorn Basketball Banquet Monday.

"I know, for a fact, that the guys are going to work hard," Durant said. "Next year, they won't miss a beat. They're going to be a great team next year. I'm always going to be a Longhorn."

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