UConn’s Gay enters NBA draft


STORRS, Conn. (AP) – Rudy Gay expects life to get really hectic now.

The Connecticut sophomore and leading scorer for the Huskies will forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the NBA draft. Now he must decide on an agent. Projected as a high first-round pick in the draft, Gay is gearing up to field a host of offers.

“I know it’s going to get crazy now,” he said at news conference Monday. “Now (basketball) is a job. It’s something I have to do.”

I have to put on my suit and tie and go to work.”

The 19-year-old Gay can punch in on draft day, June 28. First-round picks get a guaranteed two-year contract with an option for a third. Gay is already feeling some rookie jitters.

“No matter how many people tell me what I can do, it’s me stepping into a situation, so there is going to be a little bit of nervousness,” he said. “I’m leaving school, I’m leaving a lot of people I have good relationships with. It was a tough decision. It took a lot of time, a lot of thought. But then again, I’m ready.”

He is the second underclassman to leave early for the Huskies this year. Junior Josh Boone has entered himself in the draft but hasn’t hired an agent, allowing him to return to school next season. He has until June 18 to withdraw from the draft.

Junior point guard Marcus Williams is expected to make his decision in the next several days. The deadline to declare for the draft is April 29.

Gay is the 10th UConn player to declare early. Previous players, joining Donyell Marshall, Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin, Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor and Charlie Villanueva.

The 6-foot-9 Gay averaged a team-best 15.2 points a game last season, and is projected to be a lottery pick. He also averaged 6.4 rebounds and had a team-high 56 steals for the Huskies (30-4).

“When you sign on the dotted line to go to college, you plan on being there four years,” Gay said. “When I came to UConn I didn’t think about any time period or any time when I should leave.”

The scouting reports helped make that decision for him.

Coach Jim Calhoun said in his conversations with NBA executives and scouts, Gay is projected to be taken in the top six of the draft.

“This is the time for a tremendously talented guy to take advantage of a tremendous opportunity,” Calhoun said. “I see nothing but greatness ahead for him. There’s no question that Rudy will fulfill the promise that those people who draft him have in him.”

Living up to the promise of being dubbed a future lottery pick since his days as a prep star in Maryland wasn’t always easy for Gay at UConn.

The athletic and rangy Gay delighted fans with his thunderous dunks, but was rarely a dominant player. In 64 college games, he averaged 13.6 points.

Calhoun pointed out that Gay was surrounded by veteran players such as Rashad Anderson, Hilton Armstrong and Denham Brown, and his numbers were in line with being on a very deep team that for a while was ranked No. 1 in the country,

“The year he just put together, the kid got overlooked a little bit,” Calhoun said. “He was having a terrific year on a terrific team. We never would have been (No. 1) without Rudy.”

Gay had a career-high 28 points in the Maui Invitational against Arkansas. He scored 20 in the Huskies’ loss to George Mason in the NCAA regional final in Washington.

Gay’s family members and teammates and Calhoun and the rest of the UConn staff attended the news conference.

Saying goodbye to his teammates was the toughest part, Gay said.

“It’s like a family. All the guys were there to support me,” he said. “I will do the same for them.”

AP-ES-04-17-06 1753EDT