No decision yet, but Lillard leans toward leaving

Mar 25 2012 - 7:51am

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(Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner) Weber's Damian Lillard walks off the court in victory against Northern Arizona University at the Dee Events Center in January.
(Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner) Weber's Damian Lillard walks off the court in victory against Northern Arizona University at the Dee Events Center in January.

OGDEN -- Damian Lillard is leaning toward leaving Weber State early for the NBA but hasn't made a final decision yet.

"I'm definitely leaning toward that most likely, but I haven't made a decision for sure whether I'm going to leave or not," Lillard said.

The 6-foot-3 junior point guard from Oakland, Calif., had one of the top individual seasons in WSU and Big Sky history, earning third-team All-America honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches as one of the top scorers in the country at 24.5 points per game.

NBA scouts flocked to see Lillard this season as he won his second Big Sky Conference MVP award and the Wildcats finished second in the league. Lillard was the District VIII player of the year and was also named a finalist for the Wooden, Cousy and Robertson awards.

Lillard said he has spent a lot of time talking with his family and with Weber State coach Randy Rahe and others to gather information for his decision.

What he has heard so far has him tilting toward turning pro, based on "just the feedback and the opportunity that it would be for me right now," Lillard said. "I don't think a lot of people see what more I could prove if I came back. My stock right now in the NBA Draft is probably as high as it's going to get."

"That could make it an easier decision. There's always the thought that I could come back and be a part of a great program, but (the NBA) is obviously hard to pass up."

Some NBA observers have projected Lillard as a first-round lottery pick in this year's draft and first point guard to be taken off the board. ESPN's Chad Ford has him going to the Utah Jazz as the ninth pick in his mock draft, while DraftExpress.com also has him going to the Jazz as the 13th pick.

All of which is pure speculation, since the order of teams selecting the first 14 picks has not been determined and the NBA Draft lottery drawing won't be held until May.

Lillard said if he declares for the draft, he'll hire an agent immediately.

"If I'm in, then I'm in," he said. "If I decide to come back, then that's it. There's no in-between for me. If I decide to enter the draft then I'm signing an agent and I'm just going to roll with the punches."

Lillard said he wasn't sure when he would finalize his decision but that it would be before the April 10 deadline set by the NCAA for underclassmen to announce if they will return to school or not. The official NBA deadline to enter the draft is April 29.

Rahe said he has been gathering information from scouts, agents and three or four NBA general managers he trusts. Lillard is allowed to meet with agents and Rahe has helped him organize the process.

"All I want to do is help Damian," Rahe said. "We're just trying to get as much concrete information as we can."

Once in the draft, a player's stock can rise or fall, based on workouts, interviews and the personnel needs of specific NBA teams.

"There are no guarantees. All you can do is gather information," Rahe said.

But so far, "Everything has been very positive."

Lillard should have just finished up his senior season but lost most of last year to a broken foot and was granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA to repeat this season as a junior. He is on track to graduate from Weber State this summer, he said.

CBSSports.com reported Friday night that Lillard was planning to forgo his senior season for the draft and other national media outlets repeated the report.

Those reports didn't bother him, Lillard said, "but until I say it myself, it doesn't matter what they say."

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