STORRS, Conn. Ben Gordon always expected to be in the NBA next season. The national title he helped Connecticut win made his decision even easier.
''I knew I wanted this to be my last year,'' Gordon said Wednesday at a news conference to announce he's leaving the Huskies early. ''I wanted to win the championship and had all these goals set.''
It's hard to imagine a college career ending on a higher note.
Gordon averaged a team-leading 18.5 points for the Huskies, who beat Georgia Tech 82-73 last week for the title. He is projected as a top 10 pick in the draft.
The junior guard averaged 21.2 points during six NCAA tournament games. He also scored 81 points to help the Huskies win their record-tying sixth Big East title, breaking Allen Iverson's scoring record in a tournament.
''When Mek got injured, I got to take all this pressure on myself and that's when I started having fun,'' Gordon said, referring to All-America center Emeka Okafor. ''I didn't look back since then.''
Okafor is also expected to skip his senior season. He will graduate early in May, and he plans to hold a news conference later this week to announce his decision.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun said Gordon is making the right move.
''He's mentally ready and he's going to be one heck of an asset to the team that's fortunate enough to draft him,'' Calhoun said.
Gordon ended his career with 1,795 points and 437 assists. His 246 3-pointers are a school record. He is second in 3-point percentage (42.3 percent) behind Ray Allen. He and Allen are two of six former Huskies to leave before their senior year.
Gordon acknowledged struggling at times because he was already looking ahead to the NBA.
''I'd been thinking about it too much and putting extra pressure on myself and started playing poorly,'' he said.
Calhoun said Gordon's star qualities were evident when he first saw him in high school in Mount Vernon, N.Y.
''I discovered a really special young guy who all he wanted to be was the best that he can be and help lead us to special places,'' Calhoun said. ''And obviously, a little over a week ago, we got to a very, very special place.''
Now it's on to the NBA, where Gordon wants to prove himself again.
Gordon said he's always wanted to play for the New York Knicks because they're close to his home but added, ''I really want to go to a team where I'd be able to make an instant impact.'' He added that he wants to play point guard in the NBA.
''I had to score a lot for my team for us to win and couldn't be passing as much as I want to,'' Gordon said.
Gordon's mother Yvonne Gordon was among several family members at the news conference. He promised her he would return over the next few years and finish his degree in business administration.
''I've very supportive of what Ben has decided to do,'' she said. ''At first I wanted him to complete his four years, but the fact that he's ready for the NBA, that's acceptable because he will continue to do his education after that.''
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