Morris Decides to Remain in NBA Draft, Leave U-M Early

Submitted by Brian on May 4th, 2011 at 12:23 PM

[ed: press release. dump all your "he's not working out!" hopes]

May 4, 2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan sophomore guard Darius Morris (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward HS) has decided to forego the remainder of his college eligibility and remain as an early entry for the 2011 NBA Draft.

"There have been long discussions with my family, friends and my Michigan coaches," said Morris. "After gathering all the information possible, I have decided to stay in the NBA Draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball.

"This was a difficult decision; however, in the end I decided to go with my heart. Playing professional basketball has always been a dream for me. I feel this is the right time for me to pursue that goal. It will be hard to leave the University of Michigan; however, I truly believe the basketball program is moving in a very positive direction.

"First of all I want to thank everyone at the University of Michigan and all its great fans. I would not be in the position I am today without the guidance of Coach (John) Beilein and his staff. I appreciate all the support I have received from all my teammates and everyone involved with the program. I will forever be a Michigan Wolverine. Lastly, and most importantly, I must thank God for blessing me with this opportunity."

"We, as a staff, have watched Darius grow as a person and as a player these past two years," said U-M head coach John Beilein. "His improvement on the court has been the result of his God-given talent and his intense desire to become the best player he can be. His work habits, especially in our individual skill development time, have been outstanding, and we all witnessed the results of his efforts this season.

"Over the past month, we have worked with the NBA advisory committee and several NBA teams by gathering information to assist Darius and his family in exploring his options. We know they put a lot of thought into this important decision.

"Darius has been a catalyst in the continued growth of our program and we wish him nothing but the best in his professional basketball career and beyond. He will always be a Michigan Wolverine."

Morris, who was an All-Big Ten Conference third team selection by both the coaches and media, helped the Wolverines to a 21-14 record and a trip to the NCAA Tournament third round in 2010-11. He recorded the largest margin of improvement in scoring in the Big Ten, jumping from 4.4 points per game as a freshman to a team-best 15.0 points per game this past season.

Morris broke the U-M season record for assists with 235, becoming just the third Wolverine to record 200-plus assists in a season. He recorded the third triple-double in U-M history with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists against Iowa (Jan. 30). Morris tallied seven double-digit assist games, including a career-best 12 helpers against Concordia (Dec. 6) and Bryant (Dec. 20). Overall, Morris led the Big Ten with 6.71 assists per game, putting him fifth in the nation.

In two seasons in Ann Arbor, Morris started 53 of 67 career games, compiling 666 career points (9.9 ppg), 197 rebounds (2.9 rpg) and 319 assists (4.76 apg).

The NBA Draft, comprised of two rounds and 60 total selections, will be held Thursday, June 23, at The Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.



May 4th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

Best of luck to Darius, I have no doubt that he has analyzed this decision from every possible angle a hundred times and reached the decision that was right for him.


May 4th, 2011 at 12:48 PM ^


This is going to hurt a little in the short term.  However putting a player with a huge UPSIDE in the NBA really helps our future recruiting.  Recruits are witnessing the overt support the coaching staff has provided Darius.   That goes a long way...


Good luck Darius!  Go Blue!


May 4th, 2011 at 1:06 PM ^

I wish Morris nothing but the best of luck with his pro career, what he did for us this past year was amazing and won't be forgotten, and I think he'll be a good ambassador for the program. 

But this makes NO SENSE to me.  I realize it is his dream, he thinks he might sneak into the first round, and he's looking at $$.  But the NBA is about to have a MAJOR work stoppage where they need to blow up their entire salary structure.  A prolonged lockout is almost certainly going to happen.  Even if you get picked in the first round, which is still just an "if" at this point, it seems unlikely that you're going to get to sign a contract this year.  But even if you do, then you're likely stuck without a league to play in for a while and now being under contract you couldn't even play in Europe. 

To me I'm not sure this makes sense financially or for his career development - which is why I'm so frustrated by the decision. 


May 4th, 2011 at 3:19 PM ^

Very well said. Add to that what seem like the obvious concerns of not quite having an NBA-level shot, which can be worked on (see Derrick Rose and his 3 pt shooting), and NBA-level athleticism, something that's hard to change, and I think he would have benefitted from coming back for 1 more year.


May 4th, 2011 at 7:55 PM ^

Here is where you are wrong.  If he is drafted anywhere in the first or second he is under no obligation to sign with anyone in the US.  He could go there for one year or the rest of his career.  Being drafted just means that's the only NBA team that can sign him.  Also, NBA teams aren't aloud to sign rookies this year until the new CBA is signed.

At least he can play in Europe if it looks like it's going to be a long lockout.  Money won't be great but a lot better than doing nothing.

True Blue Grit

May 4th, 2011 at 1:31 PM ^

after that we'll be fine.  Trey Burke is going to be a better PG than Darius ultimately, and probably by the year after this one.  In the early part of the season, it will be a challenge as he learns the Beilein system.  By the end of the year, I'm guessing he'll be pretty darn good.  And if the rest of the players continue to develop, we'll still be a good team this season.  And if there's a silver lining, we now have another scholarship for 2012 to find a really good player.

In the big picture, this is going to be a common problem when we start having better and better players.  All the top programs have to deal with this kind of attrition.  Still, there's only a few cases where it's in a player's best interest to leave before they've gotten 3 years of college experience. 

But, I wish Darius the best of luck and hope he tears it up in the NBA. 


May 4th, 2011 at 1:55 PM ^

People make decisions every day that they think are right for them that are in fact completely contrary to their short- and long-term interests.

If you start from the assumption—as I do—that getting an education is the single most important thing a young person can do, the number of college athletes who truly benefit more from leaving early than they would by staying four years and obtaining a university degree is absolutely tiny. Darius Morris is not among them.

If a player doesn't think getting an education is all that important, then leaving early is no big deal. Darius is pretty clear in what his priorities are.



May 4th, 2011 at 3:46 PM ^

I would be willing to bet that the percentage of kids leaving early who come back to get their degrees is very small. I'd also bet that the earlier a kid leaves, the less likely he is to come back. It's one thing to come back and finish up one or two semesters, it's another thing altogether to come back facing two years to finish.


May 4th, 2011 at 2:04 PM ^

This is exactly the reason why I try and not get emotionally invested in the sport, who advises these kids? He could've been potentially a top 15 pick next year and led a really good Michigan team to great things, instead he has chosen to be a late 1st round or early 2nd round pick and miss out lose on a really nice payday next year instead? It just doesn't make much sense to me at all really...oh well. Best of luck to Darius. 


May 4th, 2011 at 2:10 PM ^

He could've been potentially a top 15 pick next year

He could also get injured or not play as well. Or play just as well or even better and still have his stock drop in a draft field that is already expected to be stronger than this year. It's hard to risk millions when improving his stock isn't guranteed.


May 4th, 2011 at 7:39 PM ^

And what are these "millions"? He's risking. IF he makes the 1st round (which is a pretty big chance in itself) minimum contracts were under $500k, which doesn't even come to millionS before the lockout. And as a harsher rookie scale is certainly to come out of it, there might not be that much there. Good money to be sure. But the only millions he's risking is the one's he may have had a chance at next year that he has almost no chance at this year (knowing that it's also possible someone pulls a Mouton with him).


May 4th, 2011 at 11:52 PM ^

than this year draft.  That will pushes Morris down in the pecking order.  He's not going to be a lottery pick even if he improve his shooting and going left off the dribble. There are too many talented players staying in school for one more year and incoming freshmen class that will certainly be ranked ahead of Morris.

Another problem is if Morris continue to show that he still can't shoot, his stock will drop because the NBA scouts will think that he'll never improve his jumper.


Like you said, there's risk of injury.  Robbie Hummel tore his ACL twice and had a bad back.  Not to say that Hummel is a 1st rounder prior to injury but it is just to show you that there's always injury risk by not declaring for the draft this year.


May 4th, 2011 at 3:10 PM ^

General consensus of everybody in the world but Darius Morris:

2011 Draft: 2nd half of 2nd round or undrafted

2012 Draft: 2nd half of 1st round or early 2nd round

I wish him luck, but based entirely off the expertise of every Internet outlet I could find he's over 80% to end up in Europe. Does he just want to live in Europe for a year? That I could understand: "Guys, I love Michigan but I get to get paid to play basketball and live in a foreign country for a year and studying abroad is important to me" makes some sense.

This isn't a Warren or Shazor move, where the guy was among the best in his conference but too slow for the pros. Among dumbass jumps to the pros it's more Shantee Orr. Shazor was a headcase constantly in Lloyd's doghouse, and Warren wanted no part of another GERG defense. Orr was the little guy who you thought could never happen except in EA Sports with the RE you used for sacks on 3rd and long.

I honestly hope it works out for him, that he proves everybody wrong and ends up the RoY at PG for the next NBA dynasty. But the thing about proving everybody wrong is that it's really rare. Consensus opinion is far from guaranteed to be correct, but it does wave rather suggestively. And I know it's too late to change his opinion. But as a Michigan fan who cares very little what happens to NBA teams who aren't from Detroit and currently winning, such a senseless move is particularly irksome. If the best thing for you is to go pro then despite how much it hurts the teams I care more about I want that guy to go pro. When a guy bolts early for an outside shot at something virtually guaranteed next year, how is it not a bit of a slap in the face, at least a little?


May 4th, 2011 at 3:42 PM ^

Where do you get the idea that the general consensus about Morris for the 2011 draft is 2nd half of 2nd round or worse? Everything I've read says the consensus right now is early 2nd round. (see also EDIT below)

And by the way, the draft is not being held tomorrow. Whatever the consensus is right now, he has a chance over the next seven weeks to improve his draft standing. Or, more likely, he's already gotten advice that one or more team(s) is interested in taking him late in the first round. He doesn't need to be a consensus first-round pick, all he needs is for one team to believe he is worthy of guaranteed first-round money.

EDIT: Morris may have started out as consensus 2nd half of 2nd round pick when he declared for the draft, but his stock has since risen. See the following from an Eamonn Brennan post:

The Michigan guard raised eyebrows the minute he declared for the 2011 NBA draft. Curious bemusement greeted the decision: "Oh, he's just testing the waters. No chance he actually stays in, right?" At that point, Morris was widely considered a second-round pick. He's improved that stock in recent weeks; Morris currently listed as a first-round bubble pick by ESPN's Chad Ford, ranked No. 32 on Ford's list of NBA prospects.


May 4th, 2011 at 4:34 PM ^

I can't see Morris possibly getting picked in the first round.  Sadly, it looks like a bunch of people told him he is a second round pick at best, but one service said he'll go in the first round, so he decided to listen to the one that told him what he wanted to hear.  It's human nature, and human nature is usually "more human" where money is involved.

In his favor, he will apparently have Beilein lobbying for him to anyone who will listen.  I just don't think it will be enough to get him into the first round.  This move may have cost Morris a couple of million dollars over the next two years.  I am guessing that two years at minimum NBA wage is a lot less than the first year and bonus of a guaranteed middle first round pick.  


May 4th, 2011 at 5:43 PM ^

A lot can happen between this year's draft and next year's draft.  Injuries for one.  A strong draft class could emerge and however unlikely that seems today, it is entirely possible.  He could play hard all year next year and find his draft stock drop.  At this point he has a real shot at the bottom of the first round.  He has a "bird in hand" chance today which he feels he needs to take today.  For most of us who are fans are judgment is biased anyways, as we are all fixated on the promise of a deep NCAA tourney run, possibly a shot at a NC. So we are all "stay and win with us and get an even bigger payout tomorrow," when his door of oportunity is opening today.  Carpe diem.  Take the moment now, it may not come again tomorrow.


May 4th, 2011 at 6:34 PM ^

In addition to the good points made by ForestCityBlue, there's also the possibility that Morris's numbers would actually go down if he were to return to Michigan next year because of the team's deeper backcourt and Hardaway, Morgan, et al. having another year of experience. In 2010-11 he either scored or assisted on more than half of the team's field goals. He'd be unlikely to repeat that, just because the team probably wouldn't need him to.

I suppose NBA scouts aren't likely to put that much stock into pure numbers, but this could be a factor in his draft position being worse next year than this.

Also, Tater, I don't think Morris and his family are relying solely on what various draft pundits are saying publicly. He went through the process of getting an evaluation from that NBA committee of scouts, and those evaluations are not made public. And it's likely he's gotten some other private evaluations as well.


May 5th, 2011 at 1:11 PM ^

At the end of the day, there is no tangible difference between going 31st and 60th. Second round is second round. That being said, Morris probably wasn't going to elevate his stock that much with another year in college anyway. His draft ceiling was always gonna be late first round based on the way NBA teams draft, even in a draft as weak as this one.  He has good, but not great or explosive, athleticism. He doesn't have elite court vision. His ceiling is likely solid to above average point guard or combo guard, which pretty much screams late first round/early second round.


May 4th, 2011 at 8:08 PM ^

I generally agree, though most of what I have seen still has him in the upper part of the second round, but that could be bs created by those encouraging the move.  Putting everything else aside, my biggest problem with him going pro now is that he has almost no outside game.  He better be really, really good at everything else he does to have a chance, and I just don't think that will be the case.


May 4th, 2011 at 4:33 PM ^

Maybe he was right and maybe he was wrong, but I'm gonna bring up something that I haven't seen.  Some kids just don't like going to school.  Going to college after 4 years of high school requires alot of work.  Granted athletes get scholarships and tutoring to make it easier, but it's still alot of work.  And maybe DMo just didn't like the whole college thing.


May 4th, 2011 at 5:07 PM ^

I don't know why you were negged.  This is a good point and similar to what my thinking has been.  There was something about school or college basketball that just wasn't drawing him in fully, and there is nothing wrong with that.  It happens all the time - some people are just not ready for college at that point in their life.

As for his NBA chances he is taking a big risk, but if that's where someone's head is, especially a young person, sometimes you can't convince them otherwise and you have to let them go with it.  Live and learn, and hopefully come out okay.

EDIT:  You weren't negged - was looking at the wrong line, sorry.

I Bleed Maize N Blue

May 4th, 2011 at 4:37 PM ^

This doesn't make sense to me:  1st round bubble and potential lockout (possible no guaranteed money, playing in Europe) vs. potential Big 10++ title and deep run in the dance.

Good luck, Darius, I think you're going to need it.


May 4th, 2011 at 6:21 PM ^

Look at Rondo.  I think he went in the late teens or early twenties.  What if Morris was given a first round guarantee from the Lakers?  Is it better to come in on a good team or bad team?  Forget the money, maybe he wants to win.