AP Photo/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Matt Freed
DeJuan Blair is off to the NBA, passing on his junior and senior seasons at Pittsburgh for the big show and more importantly -- the big bucks.
The co-Big East Player of the Year and first-team All-American said he had nothing left to prove at the college level, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Pittsburgh had a successful year, but fell short of what many thought could have been a run at a national title when it lost a heartbreaker to Villanova in the Elite 8. Blair averaged 15.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in his sophomore season with the Panthers.
Blair is confident in his abilities, obviously, and is sure he'll be a first-round pick. In the Post-Gazette's story, it chronicles Blair's dream of becoming an NBA player, but also sheds light on the possibility of disappointment:
"Blair said the highest he has seen his name on a mock draft is No. 8 and the lowest was No. 22. The Post-Gazette yesterday could not find a mock draft in which Blair was projected to go higher than No. 20 ... Four years ago, Pitt's Chris Taft left after his sophomore season to pursue a career in the NBA. Taft, projected as a first-round pick in April, fell to the second round by draft day. Taft played 17 games in his only season in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors and is out of professional basketball."
Blair is fully aware of Taft's story:
"There were a couple of things that happened with Chris," Blair said. "I feel good about this. I feel good about what I can do. My coach will steer me through the process. I'm going to go in fit and in shape. I'm not Chris Taft. That's another thing."
ESPN's Fran Fraschilla said due to the lack of talent in his year's draft class, he sees Blair as a possible lottery pick. The difference between this year and the past couple of seasons, is the absence of the dominant freshmen, i.e. Rose, Durant, Beasley, Mayo, Love etc. The list might start and end with Tyreke Evans this year.
Blair is another interesting case of a near-dominant college player heading into the NBA with a fair share of question marks. He's an extremely wide 265 pounds. Seeing him in person is startling. But, he's only 6-7, so you have to wonder if some of that offensive rebounding prowess he perfected at Pitt will be lost in the NBA.
A quick look of the NBA depth charts, you'd have to immediately compare Blair to other power forwards such as Big Baby Davis or Udonis Haslem. I like the latter comparison. Though the name isn't that sexy, there's no shame in what Haslem does on almost a nightly basis with 10 and 10 at the NBA level.
Your thoughts? Can Blair start and succeed with the big(ger) boys?