MANHATTAN, Kan. —After putting together one of the best freshman seasons ever, Michael Beasley is headed to the NBA.
Kansas State’s All-American freshman announced Monday that he will skip his final three seasons to enter the June 26 NBA draft, where he could be the No. 1 overall pick.
“It’s time to take my game to the next level,” Beasley said as his family and several teammates looked on. “I think I proved myself over the course of the season. I just think it’s time for new challenges.”
Fellow freshman Bill Walker also announced Monday that he was making himself eligible for the draft, but he won’t sign with an agent. That means that Walker, who averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds this season, can remove his name prior to the draft and be eligible to return to Kansas State for his sophomore year.
Beasley dominated his lone college season, averaging 26.2 points and becoming just the third freshman in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounds at 12.4 per game. He had the second-most rebounds and third-most points by a freshman in NCAA history, helping Kansas State to its first NCAA tournament victory in 20 years.
Beasley also was a consensus All-American, was named Big 12 player of the year and finished second to North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough for numerous player of the year awards.
“Mike’s as good as I’ve seen,” said Kansas State coach Frank Martin, seated next to Beasley in front of dozens of reporters.
NBA scouts and general managers like him, too.
An agile 6-foot-10 power forward, Beasley is exceptionally versatile, able to power his way inside or step out to the perimeter, shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc.
NBA officials came out in droves to watch him play at nearly every game, and some general managers spent three to four days at a time in Manhattan, leading to speculation that Beasley would be the No. 1 overall draft pick if he left school early.
Millions of dollars awaits Beasley in the NBA, but it still wasn’t an easy decision to leave school.
He spent the weekend debating whether he should stay or go, talking with family, friends and coaches about the NBA. It wasn’t until Monday morning, just hours before his self-imposed deadline, that Beasley made his final decision.
“I kind of made my mind up, then went back to being undecided, made my mind up, then went back to being undecided,” said Beasley, who signed with agent Joe Bell. “Today was when my decision stuck.”
Beasley leaned heavily on his mother, Fatima Smith, and Martin in making his decision.
Smith has been Beasley’s main supporter, helping him as he bounced from once high school to another after his pranks wore thin, moving her family to tiny Manhattan once he decided to attend Kansas State. She was there again when the time came for ‘Lil Mike, as she calls him, to make a decision about the NBA.
“The best thing I could have done was let him breathe, come to some decisions on his own, let him come to me with some questions,” Smith said. “And once he came to me with some questions, I kind of guided him and turned the questions around: ‘what would you do or how do you think this would happen?’ It was still a battle up until last night, until this morning.”
Martin didn’t hesitate in offering his opinion.
Certainly he would have loved for Beasley to stay. What coach wouldn’t want a player like him for four years, dominating games, drawing national attention to the school? But as someone who scratched and clawed his way out of a poor neighborhood to make a name for himself, Martin knew what going to the NBA would mean for Beasley and his family.
“I’m of the opinion if someone has the opportunity to be worth $100 million, they go take advantage when that opportunity presents itself because that window isn’t always open,” Martin said.
Beasley said at the start of the season that he wanted to play at Kansas State for four years, that he had made a commitment and wanted to earn a degree. He started hinting early in the season that he might not stick around and ultimately decided the money was just too much to pass up.
“I just think it’s the right decision for my family financially,” Beasley said. “I feel that by me going to the NBA, I can take care of my family, make sure our lives are better.”