Vucevic declares for NBA Draft

After averaging 17.1 points per game this season and leading USC to NCAA Tournament as a junior, Vucevic will enter the NBA Draft.

USC forward Nikola Vucevic will enter the NBA Draft and sign with an agent, bypassing his senior season.

Averaging 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a junior, Vucevic announced his decision at a press conference at Galen Center on Friday afternoon flanked by coach Kevin O'Neill.

"It's been a tough decision for me. I had three great years at USC. I feel like here is home. I met a lot of great people and want to thank everybody here, from the academic people to our coaching staff," Vucevic said.

"I'm proud that I was a part of the USC basketball team and Trojan Family. I feel like I will always be part of it."

The 6-foot-10 Vucevic is hoping to capitalize on what is regarded as the weakest draft class in more than a decade and be selected in the first round. To do so, he will sign with Bill Duffy Associates, which will oversee his workouts and team visits.

"If he gets the right team to like him, he'll be fine," O'Neill said. "I do support big time that he is making a 100 percent commitment to doing it. I don't think you can do anything like the NBA halfway."

O'Neill, who coached the Toronto Raptors in 2004 and was an assistant with three other teams, believes Vucevic has a skill set that will intrigue NBA executives.

"For a 20-year old, if you're 265 pounds and four percent body fat, you have a huge upside," O'Neill said. "Having been in the NBA, he'll be able to guard fours and fives, which very, very few people can do.

"I do know he'll be in the NBA for a long time. At what level is up to him and how hard he works."

And while a lockout by league owners seems to be certain, potentially jeopardizing the 2011-12 season, Vucevic indicated he would be amenable to playing overseas.

"I can go anywhere. I thought about it, but it didn't really bother me because I knew I had that other opportunity if there is a lockout. Even if there is, I'll still be fine," he said.

A native of Bar, Montenegro, Vucevic went from a lightly used freshman reserve to one of the Pac-10's most dominant big men, helping USC reach the NCAA Tournament this season.

He also helped lead the program through the departure of Tim Floyd and self-imposed sanctions resulting from Floyd's tenure, including a postseason ban in 2010.

"The first two years were about survival. Nik was a big part of our survival," O'Neill said.

Vucevic's departure leaves the Trojans with just two returning starters in guards Jio Fontan and Maurice Jones, though forward Aaron Fuller averaged 12.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in Big Ten conference play as a sophomore at Iowa.

A pair of junior college transfers, DeWayne Dedmon and James Blasczyk, along with freshman Curtis Washington will be counted on to replace Vucevic and departing senior Alex Stepheson.

O'Neill said he would be looking to sign at least one more player in the near future.

"We've been preparing for this day if it happened," he said.


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