MADISON, Wis.—Devin Harris was up late last night mulling his decision regarding his basketball future. Would he return for his senior year or leave for the NBA? He had gone back and forth with the possibilities day-to-day, week-to-week since the Wisconsin's winningest season ended in March.
About 4 a.m. Wednesday, Harris made his decision: he will submit his name for the NBA Draft but will not secure an agent, which still affords him the option of returning to school. Harris announced his decision at a press conference Wednesday morning and repeated several times that the decision was based on his need to have more time to gather information and make a final decision.
"First off I would just like to thank everyone who came—my family, my friends, coaches and teammates—who had the patience for me to make this difficult decision," Harris said in his opening statement. "At this point I've decided to enter my name into the draft but not sign with an agent. I feel this is necessary in order to get a true feeling of where I stand at in this draft. It still leaves the option of coming back to Wisconsin. Before I take any questions, I would just like to add one thing. I know there is a lot of interest in my decision and what I'm doing. From all the great fans and my friends, I appreciate the support I get and everyone that's helped me through this process."
Harris, the Big Ten Player of the Year last season, will have until June 17 to pull out of the draft.
"I probably will get five more weeks of questions but that's OK," Harris said. "(I) just felt compelled to let everybody know kind of what the deal was. I waited so long and just like I said, I need a little bit more time to figure out what's going on."
Harris did not know what his draft-preparation schedule would be as of Wednesday. For the time being, Harris is focusing on finishing his academic semester. Exams begin this Sunday for UW-Madison students.
As for what will play a role in his decision, Harris mentioned a number of possible factors, including:
- Draft standing: "There are certain numbers," he said. "Lottery, yes, but depending on how high it is. I really don't know. That I have to think about and it's why I'm taking more time to do so."
- The possibility that the Maurice Clarett's NFL Draft case could lead the NBA to put a cap on player entry. Such a cap would likely make Harris' draft prospects better next year by limiting the number of underclassmen who can join the draft. "It depends on when they make a decision on it," Harris said.
- The lure of Wisconsin's potential next season: "It is definitely a big hook and definitely one of the reasons I am not signed with an agent right now—just to give me the option to come back 'cause I know we can do some great things back here. But then again I have to kind of be selfish and look at what my situation is and see if this opportunity that I have is worth taking it."
"He mentioned selfish," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "He is not selfish. That's a feeling that he has maybe of what other people might perceive his inquiring to be. He needs to do that. That is not a problem with anybody anywhere in this athletic department."
Harris stated that he made his decision at 4 a.m. this morning, but still could not get to sleep for more than two hours afterwards.
"I've been back and forth across the board for the last three weeks," he said. "Last night was real hard. I think it was about 6:15 before I finally got to bed. It was a tough decision. With the way I have it now I still have the best of both worlds. Hopefully I can nail it down a little bit more within the next month."
Now Harris will have until the middle of June to gather additional information.
"I told him, ‘you know, you've got to be better than the CIA,'" Ryan said. "You have to make real smart, intelligent decisions based on the information that you get. Because we see what happens sometimes when there's bad intelligence reports. Devin's trying to put together the best intelligence report right now he can put together. And I admire him for that."
One of Wisconsin's best players and a rising star in the Big Ten his first two seasons, Harris broke out as a junior, emerging as one of the best players in the nation. In addition to the Big Ten Player of the Year honors, he was named a finalist for every major national player of the year award and was a second-team All-American according to most publications. Harris also received some first-team All-American notoriety and was the runner-up for the inaugural Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation's best collegiate point guard.
Harris averaged 19.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game last season, leading the Badgers in scoring, assists and steals. He set school single-season records for points (624), free throws (171), free throw attempts (216) and minutes played (1,162). He also finished in the top 10 in school annals in six other single-season categories: three-point field goals made (75, tied for second), three-point field goals attempted (201, third), games started (32, tied for third), assists (141, fourth), assist-to-turnover ratio (2.14, eight) and steals (56, 10th).
Harris finished the Big Ten season averaging 20.9 points per game in conference games only, one-tenth of a point behind Minnesota's Kris Humphries for the league scoring title. He was also second in the league in 3-pointers made per game (2.75, conference games only), fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.21), sixth in assists (3.88), free throw percentage (.830) and 3-point percentage (.419) and seventh in steals (1.62).