Freshman sensation Tristan Thompson had the best first-year season in history by a Canadian playing NCAA Division I basketball, but he's going to leave it all behind.
Multiple sources have confirmed reports out of Austin, Tex., that the University of Texas star from Brampton, Ont., is going to hire an agent and declare himself eligible for the NBA draft, to be held on June 23.
The 6-foot-8, 225-pound power forward is projected to be selected anywhere from 10th to 20th overall. If that comes to pass, Thompson will become the first Canadian to be taken in the first round after the minimum of one year of college basketball.
No Canadian has ever been taken higher than Steve Nash, who was drafted 15th overall in 1996. Thompson would be the first Canadian taken in the first round since Toronto big man Jamaal Magloire (now with the Miami Heat) was chosen 19th in 2000.
"This has been a goal of his since he was in 10th grade," said one source, who didn't want to be quoted on the record until Thompson made the announcement himself.
The goal became a reality after Thompson exploded on the scene as a freshman at Texas.
Thompson was named a first-team freshman All-American by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association after averaging 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, with a Big 12-best 2.4 blocked shots a game. He was also freshman of the year in the Big 12 conference and had some of his best games against some of the top big men in college basketball, as Texas rose briefly to No. 3 overall before losing in the third round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
Helping the decision process, a number of other top draft candidates, including big men Jared Sullinger of Ohio State University and Perry Jones of Baylor, have elected to stay in school. The 2012 draft is expected to be strong, with a good class of sophomores and a strong crop of incoming freshman at Thompson's position. In a weak draft, Thompson's stature has risen.
It's believed Thompson was under considerable pressure to stay at Texas and team with fellow Toronto freshman star Cory Joseph and incoming guard Myck Kabongo, also of Toronto, on a team that would be expected to contend for an NCAA title.
But with a guaranteed contract awaiting incoming first-round picks, declaring for the draft has long been considered the wise route for those with the assurance they'll be taken in the top half of the first round.
"There are risks to staying in school," Canadian men's national team coach Leo Rautins said. "There is another year of scrutiny, people can start picking apart your game. The NBA drafts on potential. With his body and his game he should be a very good NBA player for 10 or 12 years. Better he gets in the draft and can start working on his craft for the league he's going to be playing in."
Multiple sources said that Thompson will be signing with Leon Rose, a powerful agent whose roster of clients does or has included Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors.
Players who declare for the draft can return to college if they withdraw from the draft. Those who sign with an agent are deemed ineligible by the NCAA.
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