There were plenty of smiles in the Favors household Thursday night.
But there were no hugs; those are being saved for now.
Less than 24 hours after informing his mom, siblings and aunts of his future basketball-playing plans, Georgia Tech star freshman Derrick Favors on Friday made those same intentions known to the larger public, as he announced he was forgoing his final three seasons with the Yellow Jackets and entering the NBA draft.
“They were happy, but they just said, whichever decision I make, they support,” Favors said of his closest family members. “There were smiles.”
With the decision, the ACC rookie of the year joins forward Gani Lawal as the second Yellow Jackets player this offseason to leave school early for the draft. Last Friday, Lawal made his announcement.
Now just three weeks removed from an NCAA tournament run that came up short in the second round, the Yellow Jackets have said their goodbyes to four players in quick succession. The other two were seniors whose eligibility had run out. Of the four, three were forwards, meaning the team might have to completely reinvent itself going into next season.
“We’ve been able to practice the last two days this week and we’ll practice two more days next week and put in some of the wrinkles and changes we’re going to make in the offense so as they go into the offseason, they have a better idea of what it is they have to work on,” Hewitt said.
But according to Favors, the Yellow Jackets may want to hold off on installing too many different schemes. During his interview session with reporters Friday afternoon, he said he had not yet signed an agent and was “leaving it open” that he might make return to Georgia Tech.
He has until May 8 to sign an agent. Signing a representative is the NBA’s official indication that an underclassman will not be staying at school. Favors expects it to be a few weeks before he actually signs one. So what would keep him at Georgia Tech?
“If I feel like I’m not ready. If I go to the workouts and I feel like I’m not ready, then I’ll probably say that I’ll come back,” Favors said.
The second-leading scorer on this year’s team behind Lawal, Favors averaged 12.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. He also becomes the fourth prominent Yellow Jackets player in recent seasons to bolt for the NBA following his freshman season. It is a trend that has persisted since 2003, when Chris Bosh left early. Four years later, Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young joined him.
Not only did each play under Hewitt, each were expected to have long, full professional careers.
“In Derrick’s case, I understood and I agreed,” Hewitt said. “He’s going to be one of the top 5 guys taken and I think he asked me (to stay or go) one or two times, and I just said, ‘Hey, I don’t think you can go wrong either way.”
The mock draft Web site nbadraft.net has Favors going as high as No. 3 overall to the Golden State Warriors, while Lawal is being projected to the Boston Celtics with the 22nd overall pick in the late-June draft.
Hewitt said he spoke regularly about Favors with league insiders he has befriended over the years, and he long had an indication of just where it was his rookie sensation was expected to be drafted.
The fact that the league could soon begin restructuring its payment grade to its youngest talent as part of a potential new collective bargaining agreement, helps Favors’ case for leaving now instead of waiting, Hewitt added.
With the 6-foot-9 Lawal and the 6-foot-10 Favors now all but out of the door at Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets turn their eyes to the bench, as well as the recruiting trail.
Hewitt indicated that he hoped to bring in four players to form this year’s recruiting class, with potential for a fifth. He also would want at least one of those recruits to be a big player with size to add to the frontcourt’s depth.
Currently on the roster at forward are redshirt freshmen Daniel Miller and former Hancock-Central standout Kammeon Holsey. Holsey tore his ACL before this past season, and will see his first action this fall. Both have gained more than 20 pounds, which should help, Hewitt said.
“Now their bodies are strong, but now they’ve got to condition because they’re obviously going to be playing minutes,” Hewitt said.
When it comes to Favors, the potential lottery pick is looking forward to what the immediate future will bring. “I feel like I’m ready,” Favors said. “It’s just about getting adjusted to the game and the lifestyle.”
According to Hewitt, Favors should have no problem navigating the often lavish existence of an NBA player.
“The thing about Derrick that makes me confident, is that what you’ll find off the court is, there won’t be a whole lot of distractions there that are going to keep him from doing his job,” Hewitt said.
As an example, Favors spent his spring break on campus because he found it peaceful, Hewitt said.