Utes' star to enter NBA draft

Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY — Andrew Bogut couldn't pass up the opportunity to be the top pick in the NBA draft.

The Utah center announced Monday that he would forgo his final two years of eligibility to enter the draft, confirming what his coach, teammates and Utes fans have known was coming.

''I have no regrets and full-speed ahead,'' the 7-footer from Australia said at a news conference Monday.

Bogut, the leading vote-getter on the AP All-America team, averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds while leading the Utes to a 29-6 season, which ended with a loss to Kentucky in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

''I feel the time is right to move on to the next level of basketball,'' Bogut said.

Bogut has hired agent David Bauman of SFX Basketball, making him ineligible to play again in college. Bogut plans to stick around Salt Lake City for a few weeks, then head to Washington, D.C., to begin preparing for pre-draft workouts.

Bogut's parents, Anne and Michael Bogut, sat in the front row for their son's news conference. Michael Bogut ran an auto shop when Andrew was growing up and the younger Bogut remembered some lean times for the family. As a top NBA pick, Bogut's family should be comfortable for a long time.

Bogut considered leaving after last season, when he was the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year, but a visit to Australia from new Utah coach Ray Giacoletti convinced Bogut to put off the NBA at least another year.

Bogut is expected to be — at the very least — a lottery pick and possibly the first player chosen overall. He led Utah in scoring and rebounding and is an exceptional ball handler and passer for a big man.

''There hasn't been one day when he hasn't been our hardest worker,'' Giacoletti said. ''It's all been about the team and that's very rare this day.''

Bogut is the second Utah sports star to choose an early departure this year. Quarterback Alex Smith, a Heisman trophy finalist last season, announced in January he would skip his senior season for the NFL. Smith is also projected to go early and it's possible the No. 1 pick in both drafts could be Utes.

Bogut recorded double-doubles in all but nine games this season and finished with at least 10 points and 10 rebounds 40 times in his Utah career. And at just 20 years old, NBA scouts — fixtures at Utah games this season — are convinced he can only get better.

Bogut was a starter on Australia's Olympic team last summer and averaged 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds.

Bogut knew before the season started that leaving would be a possibility, but it wasn't until midway through it that he was leaning toward the draft. And he didn't want to talk about it until the Utes' run in the NCAA tournament was over.

''I didn't want to do anything to take the limelight away from the team. It's just not fair,'' Bogut said.

Former Utah coach Rick Majerus, who resigned midway through last season because of health concerns, pulled off one of his best recruiting achievements when he got Bogut to sign with Utah. Bogut was scheduled to join the Utes midway through the 2002-03 season, but had trouble getting cleared by the NCAA.

Bogut could have gone pro right away in Europe or signed with another school because his commitment to Utah expired during the delay, but kept his word and arrived in Salt Lake City in 2003.

Without Bogut, it will be difficult for the Utes to top this season, but Giacoletti said he wasn't even going to try to talk him in to coming back again if leaving for the draft was best for Bogut and his family.

''We had a special year. This is not a sad day,'' Giacoletti said. ''This should be a happy day, a joyous day. Andrew has done everything he can do at the college level.''

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