Monday, May 3, 2004 Updated: May 5, 11:04 AM ET
Point guard to announce draft decision
By Andy Katz ESPN.com
Wisconsin point guard Devin Harris will hold a news conference at noon ET Wednesday to announce whether he will return for his senior season or declare for the NBA draft.
Harris wouldn't disclose his intentions to anyone in the Wisconsin basketball program during Tuesday night's postseason banquet.
Whether he returns to Wisconsin or enters the draft, Devin Harris appears to be in a win-win situation.
Harris' definitive answer is expected Wednesday. While other players declare for the NBA but provide themselves an out by not signing with an agent, Harris -- according to those close to him -- wouldn't agonize over the decision now and then announce he would simply test the process. The last day to withdraw from the draft is June 17.
Harris has gone back and forth on the decision.
If he returns, the reigning Big Ten player of the year is expected to compete for national player of the year honors, making his Badgers a Final Four contender.
But if he opts for the NBA draft, the slender point guard is almost assured of falling no lower than No. 10 on draft day and could go as high as No. 5.
"He was with his teammates tonight but still didn't give an answer," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said after the banquet. "I respect that. If he decides to stay, it's because of his camaraderie he has with his teammates. He knows the next level is a job, but it's not a bad job.''
This year, Harris would likely be drafted behind Duke signee Shaun Livingston and possibly Connecticut junior Ben Gordon. The 2005 high school class is not strong and might not yield a lottery pick, which would help Harris' draft status.
"Whatever he does next year, he'll do fine. Hopefully, it'll be here," Ryan said. "This isn't easy. He's a tough young man, but he knows how much work he's put in all these years. If he does it one more year, he'll get a bigger return on his investment.
"He's a lot more mature than people realize. He's got a nice smile, a pleasant attitude, but deep inside there's a heck of a tough young man. He's tougher than people realize. But he's a young man faced with a huge decision because Devin really enjoys being a college basketball player."
Meanwhile, Wisconsin's compliance department is investigating a charity basketball game in which Harris played to determine whether any NCAA rules were violated. The game is thought to have been played last month. NCAA rules allow for student-athletes to participate in charity events under certain guidelines.
If a violation is found to have occured, Harris likely would face a one-game suspension, a university official told ESPN.com.
Harris' decision is akin to Jameer Nelson's a year ago. The difference is that Nelson was a borderline first-round draft pick before he went to the Chicago pre-draft camp. Harris is a lock for the lottery and wouldn't have to play in Chicago in June. But the similarity between the two is that Nelson knew if he returned to Saint Joseph's he could be the national player of the year, lead the Hawks to a possible Final Four and have an unforgettable season.
Nelson was the consensus player of the year, led the Hawks to a 27-0 regular season and the Elite Eight, got his jersey retired and is known as the greatest player to ever don a Saint Joseph's jersey. He also played himself up to a likely lottery selection.
Ryan, who is from Chester, Pa., like Nelson, talked with Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli at the Final Four in San Antonio about how Martelli handled the situation a year ago. Martelli said he informed Nelson of what could lie ahead for him without pressuring him. Ryan did the same with Harris.
"He really appreciates the way I've handled it, not calling him every day and just exchanging information," Ryan said.
The knock on Harris is his frame. He's listed at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, and NBA scouts say he could use a bit more bulk. He's not expected to step in and be an impact player or starter next season. But he's probably one of the more ready-made players in the draft who will be able to make some sort of contribution to an NBA team in 2004-05.
Ryan said Harris has been going to class and trying to lead a normal life during his decision-making process. Sources said he met with his family over the weekend to get their thoughts. The campus is buzzing in anticipation. There was even a "Ferris Bueller-like" rally on campus last week, with students trying to convince him to stay for another year.
Duke can win without Luol Deng -- maybe not the title, but the Blue Devils certainly can be a factor in the tournament. Wisconsin needs Harris to be its leader, go-to guy, and overall marquee player to make a run.
Harris (19.5 ppg) led the Badgers to second place in the Big Ten and the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Pittsburgh in Milwaukee. Harris was instrumental in leading the Badgers to back-to-back Big Ten titles in his first two seasons.
With Harris, Wisconsin returns its top five scorers, including its most athletic player -- Alando Tucker -- who appeared in just four games because of a foot injury, but still averaged 14 points a game in those limited appearances. Ryan said Tucker is back to wearing basketball shoes again instead of a walking boot and looks great in the weight room. The Badgers also add 6-11 McDonald's All-American center Brian Butch, who redshirted last season and has added 20-plus pounds to the 217-pound frame he arrived in Madison with last fall.
"Devin understands the big picture and wants to be the best and he knows he has a chance to set every team record at Wisconsin," Ryan said. "He's a competitor. He knows we'd have Tucker back. We could do the things defensively that we haven't been able to do in the past. He sees all of that. Jameer is stronger than he was a year ago. He's more knowledgeable. Devin can do all of that. But he can score and lead a team, and there aren't many who can do that. He'd be the guy next year and could go 1-through-5 in the draft (in 2005). His heart is of a college player."
But his mind could be thinking about an NBA contract.
No one would be surprised by either decision. Harris can't be faulted for taking the money and the security of being a high draft pick. But he also understands he can have a senior season at Wisconsin worth remembering for a lifetime and still make his millions the next year.
Harris has kept his decision a secret for months because, according to the Badgers' staff, he really doesn't know what he's going to do yet.
Everyone should know on Wednesday.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.