Harris bids adieu to Wisconsin

Badger point guard to enter NBA Draft

MADISON, Wis.—Devin Harris spoke with confidence and ease in a press conference at the Kohl Center here Thursday. Donning a red Wisconsin polo shirt and sitting behind a bright red Wisconsin backdrop, he laughed and joked with head coach Bo Ryan and smiled. He formally announced perhaps the biggest decision of his life, lifting a huge burden off the shoulders of not only himself but his friends, family and team. He announced that he would officially enter the NBA Draft, foregoing his senior season at Wisconsin for professional ball.

The announcement came after months of deliberation and decision-making. He declared that he would test the draft waters without hiring an agent May 5, leaving him the option of returning to Madison in the fall and giving him an additional month to make a choice. With his announcement Thursday, however, Harris officially sealed the door on a storied career as a Badger and will now look ahead toward his future in the NBA.

"It was obviously a very tough decision for me but after gathering the information from a number of sources, I just felt that it was best thing for me to do," Harris said.

Harris cited a number of factors in his final choice, which he made in the middle of last week. His family, friends, teammates and coaches certainly weighed in on his decision but Harris took other factors into consideration as well. His draft stock has risen and his Big Ten Player of the Year-caliber performance this season added to his draft potential.

"I think I'll be considered between the top two (point guards in the draft), depending on what the teams are looking for," Harris said. "They might want a younger guy, they might want a more experienced guy but I think I'll be in the top two," adding that the other two could be Connecticut's Ben Gordon or Peoria, Ill., prep star Shaun Livingston.

According to Ryan, the NBA conducts background checks on each of the potential draftees and Harris' impeccable civic record has only raised his draft stock.

"That's another reason that Devin's stock has risen is because they can't find anything bad," Ryan said. "If you're running a corporation and you're going to hire personnel and you get a chance to do background checks and they look into the way he's conducted himself for 20-some years, you would take him too."

Another painful but realistic factor that contributed to his decision was the possibility of an injury in his senior year, which could have hurt his draft potential or worse, possibly end his career.

"There's no doubt that I would still get drafted next year but if something were to happen, maybe it wouldn't be so high," Harris said "Nothing's guaranteed, so that's something that I had to look at very seriously and it kind of was not a big factor but it had some key points in the decision-making."

Now that Harris has made his final decision, he can focus all his attention on preparing for the draft. He will begin working out for NBA teams next week and has been working out with Tim Grover at Hoops the Gym in Chicago. He has not hired an agent yet but said he will soon.

Harris said he will face challenges upon entering the NBA. The tempo is more upbeat and the transition game is a lot faster. There is more one-on-one play and Harris will face the best of the best of the best on the court each night, meaning he must constantly play at his highest level possible.

"The transition, the game is a lot quicker, which plays a lot to my pace," Harris said. "Guys can't really key on you, especially when you have so many options because in the NBA, you're playing against pretty much an All-American every night or a great NBA player every night."

"It is going to be physical for him but in saying that he has a great quickness will really help him out," said Kirk Penney, a former Badger who has had stints with a few NBA team and has played professionally overseas. "It's really hard to say how exactly he's going to do—we'll have to wait and see. He's got a great work ethic and he'll continue to have that.

"There (are) a lot of challenges. It's very mental because you're going against guys that you've looked up to and admired for so long and I'm sure Devin will enjoy that. … It will be physical for him and I'm sure he'll enjoy that as well."

Harris left in his wake the fourth year of his scholarship, which Ryan implied will go to a well-deserving current Badger, most likely walk-on Clayton Hanson.

"We think we know a pretty good place for that scholarship," Ryan said. "It's pretty obvious."

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