Okafor joins Gordon in NBA draft

STORRS, Conn. -- Emeka Okafor is headed to the NBA, leaving
Connecticut with everything he wanted when he arrived three years
ago: a degree and an NCAA championship.

The All-America center announced Friday he'll skip his final
year of college eligibility and enter June's NBA draft.

"When I was first walking on campus and wondering what I was
doing in Connecticut, I didn't know that the best three years of my
life were going to happen," Okafor said.

"When I look back and just see how things turn out, you see a
smile right here. That says it all."

The 6-foot-10 junior is one of four players in school history
with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, and he blocked a UConn-record
441 shots.

He finished his college career with 24 point and 15 rebounds in
the national title game against Georgia Tech, earning the Most
Outstanding Player award at the Final Four.

Okafor won national player of the year awards from the National
Association of Basketball Coaches and Sports Illustrated.

Also an academic All-America, Okafor will graduate with honors
in May, a year ahead of schedule. His coach Jim Calhoun quipped
that the finance major doesn't have to leave quite so soon.

"I still maintain there's a tremendous master's degree program
here for the Emeka Okafors of the world," Calhoun said.

Okafor is the second UConn underclassman to declare for the NBA
draft this week, joining junior guard Ben Gordon.

Calhoun first caught sight of Okafor as a raw high school talent
in Houston, Texas. The tall youngster still needed to work on his
offense but was quick on his feet. Calhoun first learned of Okafor
through former NBA player and coach John Lucas, whose son played at
Okafor's high school.

"He called and said, "We've got a great big kid here,'"
Calhoun recalled.

Now that "big kid" will take his skills to the pros.

"I plan to do that the same way I did it here," Okafor said.
"Just go into the gym every day, work hard and let things work
themselves out. It's a blessing for me to be in my position. I'm
there. I'm happy. I'm going to work hard."