Photo credit: AP Photo – Chuck Burton
Isaiah Thomas spoke to the local media today via a teleconference and spent nearly 20 minutes explaining why he’s leaving Washington early and entering the NBA draft.
Don’t read too much into his decision to not hire an agent. When asked point blank if his college career is over, the junior guard said: “Yes.”
It’s a stunning reversal for Thomas who said days ago that he’s coming back for his senior season.
He’s made no secret about his strong desire to play in the NBA. For the past three years, he’s been peppered with questions about whether he’s going to stay or go pro.
It happened again after North Carolina eliminated UW from the NCAA tournament on March 20.
Immediately after the game, Thomas was unsure if he’d return. Then hours later, he tweeted he’d be back.
Today he said he thought about it this week and decided it was time to leave.
Thomas didn’t mince words. He said he’s not conflicted and it doesn’t appear as if coach Lorenzo Romar is going to try to convince him to come back. Romar is in Houston for the Final Four and he’s expected to address the issue in a teleconference at 7 p.m.
Thomas made sure to make the announcement today and not tomorrow on April 1 because he didn’t want it be perceived as an April Fool’s prank.
Here’s the Q&A Thomas had with the media. Judging from his comments, his Husky career is over.
(You haven’t hired an agent, but your statement feels like goodbye.) “Yes it is a goodbye. It’s hard to say, but I feel like this is the right time for me to make this decision. I’m just not going to hire an agent as of right now and not until I feel like I need to.”
(No matter what you hear from NBA, you are done with your college career?) “Yes.”
(Who helped you with this decision?) “My mom and dad helped me with any process in my life. I talked to coach Romar. talked to a few other guys. I’ve had a real strong support system. I was ready to make this move and that’s it.”
(Was it a difficult decision?) “It was very difficult. When the season ended it was on my mind what decision I would make and leaving the University of Washington is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I’ve had the best three years of my life was the last three playing for Coach Romar and my teammates and just having semi-successful seasons.”
(What is the reason that you’re leaving?) “I feel like with the guards coming out this year I have a really good chance of going high in this draft. I feel like I can showcase my playing. I don’t feel like it’s a real strong draft class with the point guards this year. I’m just really confident in myself and prayed on this decision. I feel like it’s the right thing for me and my family.
(Is the potential NBA work stoppage a factor?) “No it wasn’t. It really wasn’t. I thought about it and talked to people about that, but it wasn’t a factor.”
(What are you hearing about where you might get picked?) “From middle of the first to early second. And that’s from a few guys. I’m just going to go into the workouts with full confidence and go into it with a killer’s mentality and see where it takes me from here. I got a lot of confidence in myself and getting ready and preparing for this draft process.”
(Would you feel any regret if you didn’t get drafted?) “No there’s not going to be any regrets. At the end of the day I’m still going to get a degree at the University of Washington and that’s the biggest thing for me and my family other than making this jump to the NBA.”
(Why are you so definitive even though you haven’t hired an agent?) “Because I came to a decision where I don’t feel like testing the waters gives me enough time to really focus in on doing the best possible job that you can do. When I made this decision on whether it was to come back to school or leave to go to the NBA I wanted to take it on with a full head of steam. I wanted to just have my focus on whatever it was that was at hand. And that’s on making my dream come true and playing basketball in the NBA. So I’m going to take my focus on doing whatever it takes to get there and really get really focused and dialed in and have no distractions.”
(Did the NBA people say you have to do that because of the short timeline?) “No. Like I said earlier with the new rules of the NBA draft and pre-draft and all of that I feel like they don’t give you enough time to really showcase everything you got. With teams being in the playoffs and things like that, with testing the waters it doesn’t give you enough time.”
(Was your decision have anything to do with Abdul Gaddy returning and Tony Wroten Jr. coming on and you not playing as much point guard next season?) “It wasn’t a big reason why I chose to make this move. I would have loved to play with Tony Wroten and loved to play with my little brother Abdul Gaddy again. But I feel like it’s the right time. Even though next year if I did come back I would move to the two (shooting guard), I feel like my talents are best at the one position (point guard). I feel like it’s the right time for me to make this move and it’s an opportunity and a sacrifice that I’m going to make.”
(How thorough was the evaluation you received from the NBA people?) “It was real thorough. I’ve had talks with Coach Romar and he’s told me things he’s heard and how much he’s going to help me in this process. I just felt like I can make my stock rise that much higher in these workouts. I feel like I can get really dialed in and get right for what’s about to happen in the next couple of weeks.”
(Would you take a different stance if the NBA pre-draft rules were like they were in the past when early-entry guys could pull their name out 10 days before the draft?) “Definitely if it was like it was a couple of years ago, there’s no doubt in my mind that testing the waters would be a big thing that I would have done because that gives you so much time to really get your feet wet. With the new rules now the best chance is you got to stay in college or make the jump.”
(Is there a concern your height will be a deterrent?) “I’m very confident in myself and I know what I can do. Like I said before I feel like I’m physically and mentally ready for this grind that’s about to come upon me and this process that I’m about to go through. I feel like I can surprise a lot of people.
“And the height issue, I’ve been dealing with my height all my life. Before I got to high school they said I was too short to play high school. Before I got to college, they said I would never do the things I did in college that I’ve done the past three years. So that’s not the issue with me. I feel like the NBA is going back to smaller guards. It’s about getting in the paint, dribble driving and causing havoc on the offensive and defensive ends. I feel like I can do that with how open the NBA basketball game is. I’m just very confident in myself. I know height is not an issue when it comes to this basketball stuff because I’ve been dealing with it my whole life.”
(What’s the hardest part about this decision?) “Leaving my teammates and my coaching staff. Without them I wouldn’t have been in the position I’m in right now. Those are the guys I’ve loved and they’re going to be my brothers for the rest of my life. I just had the best time with them. I loved the college life. This is a decision that me and my family made and mainly me because I got to do what’s best for me at the end of the day. I couldn’t thank my teammates and coaching staff enough because they’ve done so many things for me. And also the fans and everybody who supports the University of Washington. This is the best university that I’ve ever experienced even being on campuses. The fans and the support system at the University of Washington is the best and I’m going to miss that and miss the Dawg Pack. … I’m going to miss it.”
(Is there a chance that you could return to school next year?) “No because I plan on getting drafted. That’s the plan. I’m not really in the process of hiring because I don’t want to do that right now. My plan is to put my head down and go into it full force and do it all.”
(Who are the mentors that have helped you?) “I’ve been going through it with Jason Terry. He’s been a real big help. Guys like Jamal Crawford is helping me. Brandon Roy I talked to him about him. I talked to Gary Payton the other day. So I’ve had resources and got resources and people in my ear and people behind me and in my circle. My circle has always been tight. I got some good guys that have been through this process before in different situations and exposed to the good and the bad. So I’m just ready for everything and just ready for the process.”
(So if the NBA people tell you you’re not going to get drafted, you’re still not coming back to school?) “My plan is to get drafted. Whatever you take that, then that’s how you take it. I couldn’t tell you. That’s not what I’ve heard and that’s not what I’m going to hear.”
(Are you conflicted?) “I’m definitely not conflicted. I know what I’m going to do. Like I announced today that’s what I’m going to do. Like I said before it sucks that I’m leaving the best college in the world in the University of Washington, but at the end of the day I got to do what’s best for me and my family. I hope people can understand that and if they don’t, then they can take it how they want.”
(Is it important to you that you’re close to breaking UW’s all-time scoring record?) “That wasn’t really important for me. I know the records that I’m close to breaking, but at the end of the day when I came to the University of Washington it wasn’t to break records. That wasn’t my dream. My dream was to have Coach Romar and my teammates help me fulfill my dream and help me get to the NBA. I feel like Coach Romar has done a great job at that. And I can’t thank him enough. That’s cool and all, the records but it’s bigger than that.”
(Is there a financial need that’s motivating you?) “Not really. It came down to a decision that me and my family has made. It’s nothing like we want money right away or nothing like that. God has blessed us with a lot. … God has a plan and I’m just worried about what I did, what I decided and going forward.”
(What do you think your legacy will be?) “I hope that when they look back I hope they feel like I played every game like it was my last. Played my heart out. The only thing I want to be known as is a winner. You can hate on my basketball game, you can say what you want about anything in my life or anything on the basketball court, but I came here and won basketball games with my teammates and coaching staff. You can even ask Coach Romar. He labeled me as a winner and that’s all I really care about at the end of the day.”
(What’s next?) “Take a few days off and get back to work Monday morning. I know I’ll be in the gym.”