Tuesday afternoon, Weber State University point guard Damian Lillard announced that he will forgo his senior year and will enter the 2012 NBA Draft.
“Everybody knew I was in a position where I could stay at Weber State or enter the draft,” Lillard said. “After talking with Coach Rahe and my family and giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to declare myself eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft.”
Randy Rahe, WSU head basketball coach, said that he is proud of Lillard and all that he has done, and because he is a stand-out person and player, he will stick out through the draft process.
“Nothing has been handed to this guy,” Rahe said. “He is a self-made player. He is a self-made person. That is why he is going to be successful. I really believe that is what is going to separate him throughout this process.”
Lillard is projected by many as a lottery pick in this year’s draft. WSU has had 15 players selected in the NBA Draft but has never had a first round pick. The Big Sky Conference has only produced two players, Rodney Stuckey of Eastern Washington in 2007 and Michael Ray Richardson of Montana in 1978 who were drafted in the first round.
The last Wildcat selected in an NBA Draft was Shawn Campbell, who was taken in the fifth round in 1985.
“Everybody knows everything he has accomplished on the court,” Rahe said. “The thing I am most proud of with Damian is how he is off the court. He is a lot better person and a lot better teammate than he is a player.”
Rahe, during the press conference at the Dee Events Center, said that Lillard has always been a team player and has never been a selfish player.
“One thing about Damian is it’s never been about Damian,” he said. “He has attacked everything with great humility and has been a team first guy. He is all about winning, and that’s what he has done since he stepped foot on campus is win.”
Lillard, who was a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, John Wooden Award and the Oscar Robertson Award, said playing in the NBA has always been a dream of his.
“It was a goal from the start to play in the NBA from the start,” Lillard said. “A lot of people don’t have it in themselves to do everything it takes to get there. I am fortunate enough to have people around me to support and the mindset to get it done.”
Lillard said he was criticized when he decided to come to WSU to play basketball.
“People told me, ‘You won’t be able to go pro if you go to Weber State,’ but I did what I wanted to do,” Lillard said. “Once I put my mind to it, I took off, and now I have a chance to play in the NBA.”
Getting to the NBA is not the only goal Lillard has.
“Some people might think I’m crazy, but I want to be rookie of the year,” he said. “I don’t just want to make it to the NBA. I want to make something of myself. I also want to be part of All-Star weekend one day.”
Lillard said he has enjoyed his time at WSU but is ready to take the next step.
“Everyone here has been so great to me that it is kind of hard to leave behind. But this opportunity is something that I can’t pass it up,” he said.
Teammate Scott Bamforth agreed Lillard will be missed, but he made a good decision.
“Obviously we want him with us, but it was a good decision made by him, and I think he is going to be a good NBA player,” Bamforth said.
Bamforth went onto say that he is going to miss just hanging out with Lillard the most.
“I am going to miss hanging out with him,” Bamforth said. “He is a real humble person, and it’s unique. He is down to earth on everything. That’s what I am going to miss most is just him being around.”
The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday June 28. The draft may end up being only two days after game seven of the NBA finals.
“I want to thank everyone that has helped me get to this point,” Lillard said. “I have loved my time at Weber State and am looking forward to playing at the next level.”