Our worst fears have been confirmed. JaJuan Johnson is going to declare himself eligible for the NBA Draft. He has yet to hire an agent, so he has until May 8th to decide if he is going to stay or not, but now the tension waits. As I wrote last week, we're a good team without him, but with him we will be one of the favorites to win the National Championship. I feared this when he was non-committal after the loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament. Now we are forced to wait and see what happens.
I don't know how to feel about this. I am never one to stop a guy from pursuing his dreams. If JJ stays in the draft and becomes a first round pick he gets a guaranteed contract. That is one of the main reasons that so many guys have declared early. They want those guaranteed contracts before the NBA gets a new CBA before the 2011-12 season. A guaranteed contract gives JJ financial security even if he flames out after a few years.
Honestly, I think Robbie's injury may have had something to do with it as well. How do we know that JJ didn't see that injury and think to himself, "what if that happens to me next year." If it happens in the NBA he gets his money and a chance to rehab before returning. If it happens at Purdue, he might be forgotten by the time the draft comes around. I wonder if that was part of the reason Devin Ebanks made the same decision at West Virginia.
To editorialize, I think this freaking sucks. We get teased with something like a way too early preseason #1 ranking only to lose one of the biggest keys to that ranking. With JJ back next year, everything was setting up perfectly. This is like losing a great Christmas gift that you have been waiting for. I just wanted wanted one damn National Championship to point at Bloomington so we could tell them to go screw themselves and leave us alone. That's all. With JJ in the mix next year, that banner felt closer than ever. Now, even though we are far more relevant to the world of college basketball than the Hoosiers, our chances of getting that banner are diminished. This is why I don't bark a lot about the Indiana-Purdue rivalry. Historically, they have gotten it done when it matters and we haven't.
All is not lost, however. JJ has not hired an agent and, unlike Ebanks, did not specifically mention that he was going to hire an agent. This means he can still change his mind and come back. Over the next few days we'll start to see JJ's chances as the various draft boards are updated to show his entry status. I think as long as he stays in the second round, we're okay. In the meantime, all we can do is wait. It's not like we weren't waiting for the season to start anyway. This just adds to that wait even more.