May 12, 1999
LOS ANGELES (AP) - UCLA point guard Baron Davis and his surgically repaired left knee are headed to the NBA.
"The NBA is calling and I think I'm ready for the challenge," Davis said Wednesday in announcing he would forgo his final two years of eligibility to enter the NBA draft.
"I do have the ability to make an impact and I want that challenge," he said. "This has been a lifelong dream for me. I feel it's time to be challenged at the highest level."
Davis, a 6-foot-2 1/2 sophomore, averaged 15.9 points, 5.1 assists and 2.5 steals for the Bruins last season. He missed the first four games while recovering from a knee injury that occurred during the 1998 NCAA tournament.
"My injury put things in perspective," he said. "I don't think it played that big of a part (in his decision) ... I just felt at this point in my life, with the way my knee is now it's at full strength, that it can only get better."
As a freshman, before injuring his knee, Davis averaged 11.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.4 steals.
Davis, 20, said he decided two days ago to enter the draft.
"I was still going back and forth. It's a hard decision," he said. "It's not about money because money can't buy all the experiences I had here, all the laughs and all the crying."
At a campus news conference, Davis was flanked by his grandmother, who raised him, and his sister, his brother-in-law and Lavin. Davis said he promised his grandmother he would eventually earn a college degree.
The Bruins had a 46-18 record in Davis' two seasons, with third-place finishes in the Pacific-10 Conference both years. UCLA reached the final 16 of the NCAA tournament when Davis was a freshman, but lost to Detroit in the first round this year.
"One of my dreams along the way was to win a national championship, and it kind of hurts my heart that I will have to leave that behind," he said. "I wanted to be known as one of the greatest point guards ever to play at UCLA. I didn't hang any (national) banners, so it's kind of hard."
UCLA coach Steve Lavin said he talked to scouts and NBA officials, including Jerry West of the Lakers and Elgin Baylor of the Clippers, and they told him Davis could go as high as a No. 2 pick and most likely no lower than a No. 6 pick.
"There's no question he's a lottery-level pick," Lavin said. "Baron was a very gifted, special player that you could go a lifetime as a coach and maybe only have a handful of players who are at Baron Davis' level."
Davis named the hometown Lakers and Clippers as the two teams he'd like to play for.
"I kind of want to get thrown to the fire at a young age," Davis said. "I know that going up against guys like Stephon (Marbury), Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd night in and night out is going to do nothing but make me better."
Davis informed his teammates Tuesday night that he was leaving. Several of them attended the news conference, and said they would miss Davis' emotional floor leadership.
"The playmaking ability Baron brought us is not going to be there," said forward Sean Farnham, who will be a senior. "Baron is one of those players that come along every so often, but few and far between. He gave us unbelievable excitement."