OGDEN - Damian Lillard's Weber State teammates lifted him up last year after he broke his foot and missed most of what was supposed to be his junior season.
This season, the point guard from Oakland, Calif., carried the Wildcats, averaging nearly 25 points per game and putting himself in a position to declare Tuesday that he will leave school before his senior season to enter the 2012 NBA Draft.
"I want to thank my teammates for supporting me from Day 1. I want to thank my coaches as well; I don't think I could have been in this position without them," Lillard said. "Especially when I broke my foot. I thought that was the time when everybody picked me up. I was kind of down on myself and kind of unsure about everything because I had never been hurt before. That just let me know that this program was about family."
Weber State coach Randy Rahe sat next to Lillard at the press conference at the Dee Events Center on Tuesday.
"I thought he was coming back (for his senior year)," Rahe joked after Lillard said he was making the jump to the NBA.
Rahe said the two-time Big Sky MVP is a better teammate and person than he is a basketball player.
"He has represented us, our program and our university in a first-class manner, every step of the way," he said. "We couldn't have been more proud to have him here. I told him this a little while ago, I appreciate him trusting us to come here. He didn't have to come here four years ago."
Fifteen Weber State players have been taken in the NBA Draft; Lillard is expected to become the first taken in the first round.
Lillard said he has not yet signed an agent but will soon.
"He's more than ready for this opportunity," Rahe said. "We know he's going to do great things and we're just proud of him."
Rahe could not help double-checking one last time at the press conference.
"Now, you are going for sure?"