The Pitt basketball team will be without its signature player next season, as sophomore center DeJuan Blair announced on Wednesday that he plans to enter the 2009 NBA draft.
"I will forego my two years of eligibility for Pitt and go to the NBA," Blair said at a press conference. "I didn't sign with an agent but I will in the next couple weeks."
While Blair has not contracted the services of an NBA certified agent, he did hire Pittsburgh attorney James Cook to act as advisor, marketing representative, and to assist in vetting agents. Cook told reporters that his hiring effectively terminates Blair's eligibility.
"It was a real big decision but I had to do what was right for me and what I felt. Nobody else made the decision but me, and I think it was a fine decision. I made the right decision for me."
Blair, a Pittsburgh native with a physical style of play and an effervescent personality, was a favorite for the fans and coaches alike during his two seasons at Pitt.
"DeJuan Blair has spent the last two years doing everything he could for the University of Pittsburgh," head coach Jamie Dixon said Wednesday. "He has worked his tail off to represent this University every single day of his career here."
"I'd like to thank all the fans, Pitt, and my coach," Blair said as he sat next to Dixon in the Petersen Events Center. "He's a heck of a coach, man. I'd do anything for him like he did everything for me. I love the university and I'll always be a Pittsburgher. I'll never stay away from Pitt."
Blair emerged as one of the top centers in the nation in the 2008-09 season, averaging 15.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. He recorded 21 double-doubles, scored 20 or more points 11 times, grabbed 10 or more rebounds on 22 occasions, and put up a pair of 20-20 games. He also led the nation in offensive rebounding and led the Big East in total rebounds.
For his performance, Blair was named to the Associated Press All-America first team and the Wooden All-America Team. He was the only consensus All-Big East first team selection and was named the league's co-Player of the Year.
In two years at Pitt, Blair averaged 13.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. At the conclusion of the 2007-08 season, he earned consensus Freshman All-America honors and was named to the Big East All-Rookie Team. He was also named co-Big East Rookie of the Year and All-Big East Honorable Mention.