Acknowledging his intention to capitalize on a relatively weak NBA draft for point guards, USC junior Gabe Pruitt said Thursday he was in the process of hiring an agent and would forgo his senior season of college eligibility.
Pruitt made the decision to turn professional more than three weeks before the June 18 deadline to withdraw his name from consideration for the June 28 draft. The 6-foot-4 point guard said he would sign with Los Angeles' Excel Sports Management.
"I just felt that it was in my best interest to move on with my basketball career and focus fully on basketball right now," said Pruitt, who announced late last month that he would gauge NBA teams' interest in him without hiring an agent to protect his final year of eligibility.
"I talked it over with my family and I made the final decision. I still love the Trojan family and I still will support them as if I was still there."
Pruitt is entering a draft largely devoid of quality point guards with the exceptions of Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr., Texas A&M's Acie Law IV and Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton. The 2008 draft is expected to be rife with high-impact point guards, including USC's O.J. Mayo, Texas' D.J. Augustin, Memphis' Derrick Rose, North Carolina's Ty Lawson and UCLA's Darren Collison.
Pruitt was USC's third-leading scorer last season, averaging 12.5 points after sitting out the first 11 games because of academic ineligibility. He finished the season on a strong note, emerging as a team leader and playing smothering defense during the Trojans' NCAA tournament run to the Sweet 16.
"He helped himself by how USC finished the year and how he played down the stretch," one NBA scout said.
Pruitt also averaged a team-high 4.3 assists along with 2.8 rebounds and made 35% of his three-point shots. Alternating between point guard and shooting guard, he ranks 27th on USC's career scoring list with 1,102 points.
USC is also losing leading scorer Nick Young, the junior swingman who last month announced his intention to hire an agent and declare for the draft, and second-leading scorer Lodrick Stewart, the senior shooting guard who exhausted his eligibility.
The Trojans, who entered last season without a true point guard after the death of Ryan Francis and ineligibility of Pruitt, have two incoming point guards in Mayo and Simi Valley Stoneridge Prep's Angelo Johnson.