Thomas says goodbye to Washington

There's a reason why Isaiah Thomas said he will enter the 2011 NBA Draft Thursday - Friday is April Fool's Day. And truth be told, many that follow Washington basketball would have thought the junior guard might be pulling their leg if he had announced a day later. But he didn't, and the news is most definitely real - Thomas is done playing college basketball.

"That's why I didn't do it tomorrow," Thomas said with a chuckle as he address media the day he determined that his hoopin' at the University of Washington is over. In no uncertain terms, Thomas laid out exactly why he made the decision he did, and what it might mean for his legacy at Montlake. And he told the press Thursday there is no scenario by which he could come back to UW. He's attacking the process with focus and determination.

"Yes it is a good bye," Thomas said. "Sorry to say, but I feel like this is the right time for me to make this decision."

Based on the information Thomas is getting at this time, he expects to be picked between the middle of the first round and the beginning of the second round.

"I feel like with the guards coming out this year, I have a really good chance of going high in this draft. I don't feel like it's a very strong draft class with the point guards, and I'm confident in myself. I've prayed on this decision, and I feel like it's the right decision for me and for my family. I've got a real strong support system, and I'm ready to make this move."

There's also one other factor that played heavily on Thomas' decision - the NCAA's self-instituted draft withdrawal deadline of May 8. Underclassmen testing the pro waters have to withdraw by that time in order to stay eligible for that next season. It's long time between May 8 and June 13, the deadline the NBA has for early entrants. The NCAA also restricts their student-athletes from missing classes to attend pro tryouts. Add to that the fact that NBA teams are still typically in the middle of playoffs and just starting their evaluation process for the draft, the logistics make it nearly impossible for college player to dip their toe in without jumping out of the pool right away, or diving in head first and giving up their remaining eligibility. Thomas chose to cannonball.

"I don't feel like testing the waters gives you enough time to really focus in on doing the best possible job you can do," Thomas said. "And when I made this decision, I wanted to take it on with a full head of steam. I wanted to have my focus on whatever it was at hand, and that's making my dream come true and playing basketball in the NBA. With the new rules of the draft, they don't give you enough time to showcase everything you've got. If it was like it was a couple years ago, there's no doubt in my mind that testing the waters is something I would have done. They gave you so much time to get your feet wet. I'm going to go into the workouts with full confidence and with a killer's mentality, and see where it takes me from there."

He reiterated that he won't be signing with an agent any time soon, but it won't be a factor in what he has already decided. "There's no rush."

Thomas said he made the decision with his family, as well as a circle of friends that included UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar, and others - like NBA vets Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, Brandon Roy, and Gary Payton. "I feel like the NBA is going back to smaller guards," he said. "It's about getting in the paint, dribble-driving and causing havoc on the offensive and defensive end. And I think I can do that with how open the NBA basketball game is. I know height is not an issue, because I've been dealing with it my whole life."

"Isaiah Thomas has had an unbelievable impact on our program during his time with us," Romar said. "We will definitely miss him, but we are behind him in his quest to fulfill a lifelong dream to play in the NBA."

He confirmed that after the Huskies lost to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32, thoughts of entering the draft have dominated his thoughts. He wasn't thinking about finishing his legacy at UW as the greatest scorer in the history of the program, or as the only player to go to four-straight Big Dances, even though he ended his junior season ranked among the Huskies' all-time leaders in points (1,721/6th), assists (415/3rd), 3-point makes (164/3rd) and steals (122/8th). He wasn't thinking about how he would fit in with Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten. He knew he would move to the two guard, but none of that really mattered.

He was thinking about his dream, and what it's going to take to get there.

"I hope they feel like I played every game like it was my last, played my heart out," Thomas said when asked about how he wants to be remembered. "I want to be known as a winner. You can hate on my game, you can say what you want, but I came here and won basketball games with my teammates and coaching, and that's all I really care about at the end of the day.

"I'm going to miss the Dawg Pack and everything to do with the University of Washington. I was born in Tacoma, Wash., and I grew up watching guys like Donald Watts and Nate Robinson and Brandon Roy, and guys like that. I cherish that, and I'm going to miss it."

And as it has been with the other Huskies that have gone on to successful NBA careers, UW won't be far from Thomas' heart. "I couldn't thank my teammates and coaches enough," he said. Without them I wouldn't be in the position I'm in right now. But there wouldn't be any regrets. At the end of the day, I'll still get my degree from the University of Washington, and that's the biggest thing for me and my family, other than making this jump to the NBA."


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