Just about any one with even a passing interest in Oklahoma State basketball has spent the last year assuming that junior guard James Anderson would head for the NBA following the season. Following OSU's loss to Georgia Tech on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament, some small amount of hope that Anderson might return for his senior season existed among the OSU faithful.
Those hopes took a blow on Monday, as Anderson announced his decision to put his name into the NBA Draft in front of assembled media, fans and students at a 1 p.m. press conference.
"This was a very difficult decision for me," Anderson said. "After discussing the pros and cons with my parents, my high school coach, and Coach (Travis) Ford, I believe now is the time for me to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA. I'm officially announcing my plans to enter the 2010 NBA Draft."
Anderson was named as the Big 12 Conference's Player of the Year two weeks ago, and led the league in scoring with 22.3 points-per-game average. That average puts him at third all-time in OSU's single-season scoring average, and his 735 points in the 2009-10 season are second all-time for the Cowboys.
With 1,811 career points, Anderson ranks fourth in OSU's all-time scorer's list, behind Byron Houston, Bryant Reeves and Adrian Peterson. That total is the most in a three-year career at the school.
OSU head coach Travis Ford said Anderson already made one decision to put the NBA on hold, in returning for his junior season.
"He could have left last year, and been probably a mid- to late-first round pick and guaranteed money," Ford said. "He chose to stay because of this university. He really did. We talked about it a lot. He loves going to school here. He loves his teammates and he made a commitment. He made a sacrifice that few people probably would have last year, to come back and be a part of this university and this basketball family."
Ford coached Anderson for two years at OSU and said unequivocally that he agrees with his star's decision to leave school early.
"We laid it out there and said 'James, what do you want to do? Don't worry about the basketball team, don't worry about me. This is about you and what's best for you.' And he said 'I think I want to go,' and I said 'I'm glad you said that, it's the right decision, that's what you need to do.' That's what he needs to do."
Anderson has not yet hired an agent, technically leaving him free to return to college (by withdrawing his name from the draft), but made it sound as though he could hire an agent in the near future.
"I'm still discussing that and plan to do it in the future," he said. "I haven't hired anyone yet.
Asked if he was specifically not hiring an agent so that he could keep the option of returning to OSU open, Anderson replied "I don't know, I'm still discussing it."
The Junction City, Ark. native said he is hearing he is a late-lottery to mid-first round projected pick.
The 2010 NBA Draft is on June 24th at Madison Square Garden. Underclassmen who have not hired an agent may remove their name from the draft and retain their college eligibility on or before May 8.