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Kansas forward Wright jumping to the NBA

| Tuesday, April 10, 2007

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Julian Wright, the versatile but inconsistent power forward who helped Kansas win two straight Big 12 titles, is skipping his last two years to enter the NBA draft.

The 6-foot-8 Chicago player said at a news conference Monday that money wasn't the deciding issue.

"Money has never been my motivation," he said. "It's not my family's (motivation). Mostly, just playing and feeling like I'm able to advance my game to the next level. It's not about the money. I'm just happy and grateful to have the opportunity."

Often inconsistent but at times spectacular with his long wing span, Wright averaged 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in helping the Jayhawks win their second straight Big 12 tournament title. In the regular season, he averaged 12 points and 8.1 rebounds.

His best scoring game was a 33-point night at Missouri. But, showing his bad side one night at home, he went up for a spectacular, uncontested dunk but lost control of the ball and his body and landed in an embarrassed heap beneath the basket. Coach Bill Self was so disgusted, he pulled him out of the game.

"Julian is a versatile, fabulous athlete who can do a lot of things very, very well," said Self, who joined his star player at the news conference.

"He'd be the first to agree that there are some things he needs to get better at. But I don't know how many 19-year-olds or 20-year-olds don't have to get better at something. He'll work hard to do that.

"But you can't teach a lot of things that Julian does very, very well. And you can't coach a lot of things he does very, very well. And I think that was intriguing for a lot of folks."

Wright, who lacks a 3-point shot, said he expects to go somewhere between No. 10 and No. 16 in the first round.

"I feel like I'm in a position now where I can develop," he said. "I'm not saying I'm going to be the next LeBron James or an impact player right away. I know it's a long work in process."

By declaring for the draft, Wright becomes eligible to participate in the NBA Pre-Draft camp and try out for NBA teams. If he does not hire an agent, Wright can withdraw from the June 28 draft and return to school provided he does so by June 18.

He becomes the first Jayhawk to declare for this year's draft, although 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Brandon Rush is widely thought to be leaning toward turning pro. Kansas had no seniors last season and would otherwise return the entire lineup that reached the round of eight in the NCAA tournament.

"I know it's going to be a lot of ups and downs, especially in the first year, or the second, or maybe the third," Wright said. "I'm ready for that. I'm not ready for actual playing right now. Obviously, I have a lot of work to do."

Self, admitting Wright's loss will weaken his team, said he could not fault the decision.

"Being very candid, if I was Julian and I was in this situation, I'm not sure I wouldn't make this same decision," he said.

Self also said he did not expect a decision from Rush, his leading scorer, for 10 days to two weeks.

"Not a happy day, not a sad day," Self said. "Just a day, I think if you coach at a place like Kansas you're going to have to deal with from time to time."

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