Austin Daye’s playing career at Gonzaga is officially over.
The 6-foot-11 forward said Monday he will forgo his final two years of eligibility at Gonzaga and keep his name in the NBA draft. Underclassmen had until 2 p.m. (PST) Monday to withdraw from the draft, which takes place June 25 in New York City.
“I’m relieved,” Daye said while riding to the airport after working out for the New York Knicks. “It was a weird morning for me. I woke up, had breakfast, had a weird feeling in my gut until I signed that paper. Now, I’ll prepare myself for the future.”
That paper was an agreement to be represented by BDA Sports Management. Daye informed Gonzaga’s coaching staff of his decision by telephone roughly an hour before the deadline.
“It’s obviously what he wants to do,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. “He gave us a great two years. I’ve always been in favor of whatever each of our individual athletes want to do. I’ve always been a big proponent of the guys being as educated as possible to help them make the proper decision. He’s going in and we’re all going to be pulling for him.”
Daye joins Adam Morrison (2006) and Paul Rogers (1997) as Bulldogs to leave school early for the NBA. He averaged 12.7 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds while blocking a school-record 70 shots last season. Daye averaged 10.5 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman. He was selected All-WCC honorable mention both seasons.
Most mock drafts project Daye going 12-27 in the first round, but he elicits a wide range of opinions. He’s been called the possible steal of the draft because of his long-term potential while one suggested he could end up in the NBA Development League.
Daye “has all the skills a team could want but remains a work in progress because of his slight frame and lack of maturity,” according to cbssports.com.
“It’s hard to imagine a player less prepared for the rigors of the NBA. Daye still flinches when mosquitoes fly past, so how would he handle the physical defense played by the pros? Let’s make this simple: If he’s not back in college next year, he’ll never be a significant player,” wrote Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News.
Daye said most of the feedback he received was positive, but acknowledged that NBA executives were concerned with his 192-pound frame. Daye was unable to bench press 185 pounds once at the draft combine in Chicago.
“Just the same stuff as far as what they need to see from me – strength and things like that,” said Daye, who turned 21 on June 5. “The positive stuff is my size and ability to handle the ball and shoot. Not too many guys are 6-11 and can do all those things. I’m fortunate my game has been polished really well.”
Daye said he’s hearing he’ll be drafted “in the teens, late teens, even the 20s, but I think I’ll go higher than that.”
The past two months have been tiring, Daye said. He has a couple of workouts with teams scheduled next week and he’ll continue conditioning with Joe Abunassar at Impact Sports Academy.
Daye said he thoroughly enjoyed his time at GU.
“It’s been a great two years,” he said. “I appreciate everything everyone has done for me, the coaching staff, the students, fans, my teammates. It’s been an amazing experience. I love the Zags and it’s a place I’ll always represent. I want to thank the fans for coming to all the games and showing support non-stop.”
Daye said he was disappointed when he read an article on ESPN.com that noted a “disconnect” between GU’s coaching staff and his father, Darren, a former NBA player.
“It was kind of taken out of context,” Austin said. “My dad is very supportive of me and he was just being protective of me, like any parent would be. I know my dad talked to (Gonzaga assistant coach) Tommy Lloyd a few days ago and had a good conversation. I know I’m going to have a great relationship with (Gonzaga’s) coaches for the rest of my life.”