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Home News-Telegram Sports Pro Sports Pitt's Blair to declare for NBA draft

Pitt's Blair to declare for NBA draft

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — All-America center DeJuan Blair of Pitt will declare for the NBA draft but has not yet hired an agent, leaving the possibility he could return for his junior season.

Blair is currently projected as a mid- to late first-round pick, but his status could change once he goes through the NBA's various pre-draft workouts. If he doesn't hire an agent, Blair would have until June 15 to withdraw his name from the June 25 draft.

Pittsburgh attorney James Cook issued a press release Wednesday saying he will advise Blair in the pre-draft process, before Blair picks an agent. Among Cook's former or current clients are Memphis assistant Orlando Antigua, a former Pitt assistant coach, and boxer Roy Jones Jr.

"DeJuan Blair is Pittsburgh through and through, from the junior program J.O.T.S. through Schenley High School to the University of Pittsburgh," Cook said in the statement. "We are confident that he will make the city of Pittsburgh proud and enjoy a long NBA career."

Pitt officials did not immediately comment on Cook's statement, but Blair and Pitt coach Jamie Dixon called a 4 p.m. news conference to discuss Blair's status.

Dixon apparently is planning as if he won't have Blair on his team next season. This past season, Blair helped Pitt to its first No. 1 national ranking, its first No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament and its first trip to the NCAA round of eight in 35 years.

"I think he's an NBA player," Dixon said of Blair, who grew up about a half-mile from Pitt's campus. "I told him that from the time we recruited him. I've always had a higher opinion of him than most scouting services and coaches and most media observers. I always thought of him as an NBA player."

Dixon and Blair met several times this week to discuss his status, and the coach passed on information he received from NBA general managers.

Blair is an in-between size for an NBA inside player at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, but is an instinctive rebounder — he easily led major college players in offensive rebounding — and he was not overmatched physically even against centers who were seven or eight inches taller.

Among the college season's signature moments was when the muscular Blair flipped UConn's 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet over his shoulder and to the court as the two contested a rebound.

"His size is not a hindrance in my mind," Dixon said. "It was just something he would overcome, as he had in high school and then college."

Blair averaged 15.7 points and 12.3 rebounds this season and was the Big East co-player of the year with Thabeet, and became the first AP first-team All-American at Pitt since the 1950s.

Pitt finished 31-5, losing only to fellow Big East teams: Villanova twice, plus Louisville, Providence and West Virginia.

Pitt was a basket away from advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 1941 until Scottie Reynolds' driving layup with a half-second remaining gave Villanova a 78-76 victory in the East Regional final.

The Panthers haven't had an NBA first-round pick since guard Vonteego Cummings in 1999, but they could have two this year with Blair and forward Sam Young.

Young, Pitt's leading scorer, is a senior.

Blair's predecessor at center, Aaron Gray, went through pre-draft workouts in 2006 but returned for his senior season. He was a second-round pick by the Chicago Bulls a year later.

Pitt sophomore center Chris Taft left after two seasons in 2005 and was projected as a first-round pick, but he slipped into the second round and is no longer in the league.


Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.





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