An hour before the 5 p.m. deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft, Georgia Tech officials still did not know the plans of Jarrett Jack, the team's star guard who waited until the last possible moment yesterday before deciding to forgo his senior season and turn pro.
Jack and a handful of non-college seniors and high school players around the country were torn at the 11th hour, wrestling with whether they should spend next year on a college campus or accept their current draft status and leave school. The dilemma was particularly difficult for some, considering a record 108 early-entry candidates initially declared and the June 28 draft consists of only 60 selections. The flurry of last-minute announcements did little to reshape the two-round draft. Jack was among only a few players who were both still uncertain and projected to be taken in the first round.
"It was a tough, hard decision," said Jack, a Fort Washington native who had not hired an agent, which afforded him the option of returning to school.
Yesterday's only other announcement by a high-profile player was made by Arizona State's Ike Diogu, the Pacific-10 player of the year who said in a statement that he would remain in the draft. In recent days, the only player expected to be taken in the first round who withdrew was Tiago Splitter of Brazil, according to ESPN.com.
Utah junior Andrew Bogut is expected to be the top pick, with three North Carolina players -- freshman Marvin Williams and juniors Raymond Felton and Sean May -- likely lottery picks, as are Wake Forest junior Chris Paul and Illinois junior Deron Williams.
Duke forward Shavlik Randolph, who is not expected to be selected in the first round, will remain in the draft, one of nine non-seniors from the ACC to turn pro. Others remaining in the draft include Kentucky's Randolph Morris, Florida's Anthony Roberson and Missouri's Linas Kleiza (Montrose Christian).
Less recognized players who pulled out include Martellus Bennett, who will play football and basketball for Texas A&M; Notre Dame's Torin Francis; Alabama's Jermareo Davidson; and La Salle's Steven Smith.
George Washington forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who also announced yesterday that he withdrew from the draft, initially felt the high number of early-entry players "took away from what I wanted to do." He fretted that during workouts he might get lost in the shuffle with fringe prospects and longshot hopefuls.
"Declaring for the draft is not something you should just do just because everyone else is doing it," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I did it because it was a privilege, and it shows the status you have and the hard work you put in. When I saw 108, I was like, 'Whoa, the odds are not looking too great.' "
Mensah-Bonsu said he was slated for the second round following his performance at Chicago's predraft camp and a handful of workouts with NBA teams. He did not sign with an agent but relied on advice from John Greig, an agent representing his older brother, Kojo, who plays overseas.
Returning to pursue a degree in psychology, Mensah-Bonsu also wants to finish his career with the core of teammates he entered school with. He said the likely implementation of an age minimum of 19 years old in the NBA, which was announced yesterday, will help his draft prospects come 2006.
"More college players who have paid their dues are going to get drafted," he said. "Not to take anything away from the high school players, because all of my favorite NBA players came straight from high school."
Twelve high school seniors declared for the draft in May, with at least some believed to be prompted by the prospect of an age restriction in 2006. Most remain in the draft, although Brandon Rush of Mount Zion (N.C.) decided to withdraw, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
The influx of several high school players may have further crowded the field for longshot non-college seniors, such as Cincinnati's James White, a Kensington native. White's visibility was limited this spring; he worked out only for the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. Players are prohibited from working out for teams while enrolled in school full-time, and White finished exams only two weeks ago.
"You get one year to declare and then go back to school," his father, James White Sr. said. "So it's like taking the SATs early. When you finally take it as a junior or senior, you'll be more prepared."