Oklahoma junior forward Amath M'Baye announced Wednesday afternoon that he would be foregoing his senior season and will enter the NBA Draft.
Maybe we shouldn't be shocked, but the general assumption was certainly that M'Baye would return to Norman next year. With the expectation being that he would clearly be one of the players Lon Kruger would lean on and look to help lead this team in the 2013-14 season.
Obviously, that will not be happening now.
M'Baye released a statement regarding his decision through the university:
"My time at OU has been great," said M'Baye, who averaged 10.1 points and 5.2 rebounds this season en route to earning third-team All-Big 12 honors. "I'm 23 years old. My goal when I came to the United States was to take care of business in the classroom and by the time I was 23 to have a degree in my pocket. Now that I'm graduating in May, it's time for me to start taking care of my family the way they've taken care of me for so long.
"It's a tough process of saying goodbye to everybody because I love everyone here," continued the 6-9, 208-pound native of Bordeaux, France. "The coaches did an amazing job with me and with this team in general. Everyone was great here and I had an amazing time. I want to be able to come back down the road and help the program however I can, because it's given me a lot."
Head coach Lon Kruger handled the somewhat surprising decision (at least for OU fans) with his usual class:
"Amath has been a terrific ambassador for the University of Oklahoma, both on the court and in the classroom," said OU head coach Lon Kruger. "We appreciate his many contributions and wish him nothing but great success in the future.
"We'll now turn our attention to spring workouts," Kruger continued. "The returning players and our incoming recruits are really excited about next season. Amath's contributions to this year's team enhanced the foundation of our program, and we have a great and motivated young group of guys who will look to build on the success of this year's squad."
M'Baye was voted as the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year and while he flashed his considerable potential at times this season, he was never the consistent contributor many had hoped he would be. Despite that fact, many NBA Draft "experts" had M'Baye rated higher as a prospect than his teammate Romero Osby who put together an incredibly impressive senior season. While the logic behind such reasoning may be flawed, perhaps no other professional sport drafts more on a player's potential than the NBA.
However surprising this news may or may not be to you, just like in football it's important to bare in mind our personal feelings as fans play absolutely zero role in a player's decision to leave early. Whether you or anyone else thinks a particular player is ready obviously does not matter.
All we can do as fans, should you choose to do so, is thank the player for their time in Norman and wish them luck in their future endeavors. Would have loved to have seen M'Baye back with this team next season, but hopefully he will get drafted and have a long and successful NBA career.
Once a Sooner, always a Sooner. Good luck, Amath!