With an unprecedented number of college underclassmen throwing their hats into the ring of the NBA draft this year, one familiar Villanovan has also decided to test the draft waters. This past Thursday at a 10:30 a.m. press conference, alongside Villanova men’s basketball head coach Jay Wright, Kyle Lowry officially announced that he had entered himself into the draft, but will not sign with an agent. This move allows the six-foot-one, second-year guard from Philadelphia, Pa. to retain his eligibility with the NCAA should he choose to return to Villanova next year.
The decision didn’t come easy for Lowry.
“It was a very difficult situation,” he told reporters. “I thought long and hard about it, and I felt really good with the decision I just made.”
Wright felt Lowry made the right decision. “This has been a very difficult process for Kyle and I’m proud of the way he has handled it,” he said. “Kyle is fulfilling all of his academic responsibilities, working hard with the team and is very cognizant of the NCAA eligibility issues as they pertain to this process.
“I fully support Kyle’s decision. He is working hard to prove himself as an NBA player and he also has the option to return for his junior year. This experience will benefit him no matter what decision he ultimately makes,” Wright stated.
In his two years as a Wildcat, Lowry has become a favorite among the fans. In the 2004-2005 season, Lowry was named to the Big East Rookie team and was the Philadelphia Big Five’s Rookie of the Year. After spending the beginning of the season injured with a torn ACL, he returned on Dec. 31. Lowry started his first game for the injured Mike Nardi against Boston College, where he scored 11 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists in a 76-70 win. His popularity surged with an outstanding performance against North Carolina in last year’s Sweet 16 match-up in which he shot 70 percent from the field to score 18 points, in addition to his seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
This season Lowry improved and was named to the Big East Second Team All-Conference and First Team All-Big Five, as well as the Big East Honor Roll twice and Big Five Player of the Week twice. He was third on the team with 11 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He was first on the team with 3.7 assists per game and led the Big East with 2.3 steals per game. In two years he has scored 543 points.
Reaction to his decision on campus is mixed. While receiving well wishes from students, several would like to see him return for another year. Freshman Justin DiBiase is saddened by the announcement, saying, “It’s disheartening to see a possible player of the year candidate walk away from Villanova, but hopefully he will only test the draft waters and return for one or two more years.”
Others share this same attitude but support that Lowry for doing what is in his best interests. Senior Justin Benincasa argues that Lowry has a special opportunity. “I would do it if I were him. If that’s what he wants to do, I support it.”
Meanwhile, students like junior Mike Merlini acknowledge the risks of staying at Villanova. “It’s good to have a degree, but playing two more years he might risk injury. It’s a gamble either way.”
Scouts believe the jump will be a good fit for Lowry. According to draft projections on ESPN.com, he is rated 15th overall and should be a mid-to-late first round selection. While his shooting remains in question, improvements he made this past year, including 44 percent from beyond the arc have bumped up his stock.
“Scouts love his motor and his willingness to lay it all on the line on the defensive end,” according to the ESPN.com report. It goes on to praise his strength and athleticism. Based on several general managers’ projections, Lowry is seen as the second best point guard in the draft behind Marcus Williams of Connecticut.
Lowry joins seniors Allan Ray and Randy Foye, who declared for the draft earlier in April.