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Posted on Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

5 reasons Darius Morris is making the right decision to leave Michigan for the NBA

By Michael Rothstein

Darius Morris is leaving for the NBA, and now the Michigan basketball team has a hole to fill at point guard.

Instead of having five starters and every player back from a team that reached the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, Michigan will return four starters and likely have either freshman Trey Burke or senior Stu Douglass starting at point guard.

Morris’ decision may hurt Michigan as a team, but he made a wise individual decision today to stay in the NBA Draft.

Here are five reasons Morris chose the NBA:


Darius Morris averaged 15 points, 6.7 assists and 4 rebounds a game last season.

File photo

1. His stock is high

Scouts noticed Morris’ improvement from his freshman season (4.4 points, 2.6 assist per game), to his sophomore year (15 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists per game). And the NBA drafts more on potential — analyst Hubie Brown’s favorite word might be “upside” — than the NFL. Right now, Morris’ stock is higher than ever. Yes, the looming lockout does complicate matters, but say this is Morris’ ceiling — there is no guarantee he would make a similar leap from sophomore to junior year as he did from freshman to sophomore year — his stock likely wouldn’t get higher.

2. The Manny Harris example

If Manny Harris, a former Michigan guard, left after his sophomore season at Michigan, he likely would have been a first-round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He stayed for his junior year, injured his hamstring, played on a struggling team and ended up undrafted as scouts had another year to dissect his game. During Harris’ junior year scouts saw that Harris couldn’t shoot and struggled to go left — coincidentally, the same things people note about Morris’ game — and it hurt him.

3. A weak draft class

With the NBA almost certainly headed toward a lockout, now is the right time for a fringe first-round prospect like Morris. Most analysts and scouts agree this is a weak draft class. Plus, the 2012 draft could be loaded with more talent than this year's class. Besides players returning to school who are first-round locks this year such as Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger, Baylor forward Perry Jones and the North Carolina trio of Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller, there will be new breakthrough stars. While those are all frontcourt players, they also opened at least five more first-round slots this year. The freshman college class of 2011 is immensely talented as Draft Express has 10 current high school seniors in the first round of its 2012 mock draft. If, for some reason, high school players are once again allowed to declare, the numbers in the 2012 draft could be massive, let alone talented. There is no guarantee what contracts and rookie wage scales will look like after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2012-13.

4. A minutes issue

Combining with his current stock, there was always the chance Morris could see his minutes slashed in 2011-12. Burke is going to play minutes at the point and Michigan was looking at a minutes crunch at the three guard spots between Morris, Burke, freshman Carlton Brundidge, Douglass, Matt Vogrich and Tim Hardaway Jr. It was also possible Eso Akunne, who has seemed on the cusp of playing time the past two seasons, could have forced his way into the rotation. Had Morris lost minutes — or somehow lost his starting job to Burke — his stock would have plummeted. Also, if his production had dipped, it would be another bad sign for Morris.

5. Would you turn down a million dollars?

Face it. If Morris is picked in the first round — and it is entirely possible with some good workouts — he will have a guaranteed contract and be paid close to a million dollars. Could you turn that down if you had a chance at that? Would you? Even if Morris doesn’t make the NBA, he will have a good, lucrative career in Europe and make money.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by email at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein



Fri, May 6, 2011 : 6:55 a.m.

I don't like the desicion as a Michigan fan, but I wish him well. Harris went undrafted last year but is playing minutes with the Cavs and if he keeps getting better will be fine in the NBA as a roll player and sporatic scorer. Good luck Morris and bring on Burke and Douglass. GO BLUE!


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

I hope you are right. I hope everyone who thinks Morris will be drafted in the first round is right. Because if he isn't, there could be up to 2 million reasons he should have stayed.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

Michael, I appreciate you looking at the issue from the viewpoint of the player and not the UofM or the coach. That's a valid point of view as well. We could argue endlessly whether they player does more for the university or the university for the player. But let's no go there. I can think of four more reasons it a good decision to go. First, the team will not improve much next year. In fact, without Morris, it will take a step back. We still do not have the bigs to take the next step and recruitment didn't help. Second, Morris can learn more hanging out with John Wall than John Beilein. Nothing like peer tutoring when you dealing with top notch peers. Third, the way Morris plays, he's likely to get hurt in college. He drives the lane with almost reckless abandon. Save it for the NBA playoffs where you are being compensated adequately to take such risks. Fourth, UofM is not committed to a top basketball program. It will never hire a high profile coach nor attract high profile athletes, as during the FAB 5 era. The UofM does not wish to risk being embarrassed by players or coaches. Too much is at stake for the UofM brand, as Brandon would say. So in the end Morris did the right thing. We as fans and UofM alum really don't deserve better.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

I will miss Darius. I loved watching him play last year, so this shout out goes to Darius... thanks. I do think the money will still be there in one more year but cannot fault him for chasing his dream now. Here's hoping that he has made the right choice.


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 7:01 a.m.

I do think that next year he would have been fine but one year removed from how the Manny situation played out I don't blame the kid for going and getting what HE has worked hard for.... not anyone else who has negative criticism towards him..... and chases his dream of playing in the NBA. How many athletes have had injuries or accidents outside of sports ruin their "careers" and never get to the NBA,MLB,NFL, ect. He's healthy now looking late 1st round early 2nd round.... go for it. Go Blue!


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

No one bats an eye when a college coach takes off for the money, yet let one of these athletes decide to leave college early and look at all the criticism he gets. I wonder why?

James Roane

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Because a coach is leaving one paid position for a higher paid position with gurantees. The athlete has a more difficult decision, especially someone like Morris because there are no guarantees. He may not be drafted at all and then he's in limbo. Morris was a Third team conference player. You could just as easily build a case for 5 good reasons why staying in the draft is a bad decision. Hope it works out but many many times, it doesn't.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

KiR...If he gets real lucky and gets some money initially, how long will it last? It will not last as long as he will need. He will blow through one or two million in a heartbeat and there are no guarantees he will get that much. Then where is he? To me money is not the issue. It is whether or not he is ready and if this is a good decision. Dumb decision....

Jeff Gaynor

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

@Engineer: I believe Beilien encouraged Morris to check out is draft prospects so he CAN get the top tier prospects, who know the coach will support them leaving after a year or two. Likely, Morris was here to play basketball, not be a student. 20 former U-M 'students' are now playing pro basketball; only 2 are in the NBA. U-M fans put the team's success first, and don't look at this from the student's point of view. That's fine; just recognize it. The players are not chattel; they can make choices about their own lives. In fact, there has to be a suspension of disbelief to be a fan of U-M or any major college or pro team. It's not like there's anything local about these teams. Again, fine, root for your teams -- I certainly do -- but for us it's a game; for the players it's their lives and future.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

Bad move for him and the U. He could vastly improve his worth by honing his skills. Plus, there are rumors of an NBA lockout. He'd be at home twiddling his thumbs or end up playing in some far off land.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:08 p.m.

Hmmm. Let's go over your reasons one by one: 1. His stock is high - relative to what? Although he improved a lot, he still has a long way to go. 25% from the 3 point line? That won't cut it with ANY NBA team. 2. Manny Harris would NOT have been a 1st round pick after his sophomore year. Do you honestly think the NBA scouts weren't aware of Harris's weak points that year and suddenly were after his junior year? 3. You may be right about the weak draft class. But what will happen to Morris's first year salary if the lockout eliminates, say 1/2 the season. By my half, his "big first year paycheck" gets cut in half. A high price to pay for going pro wouldn't you say? 4. Minutes - your estimate of his playing time fall off is WAY overblown. What will happen most likely is Stu Douglass will lose minutes to Trey Burke and Morris will stay about the same. 5 Million dollars for Morris? Maybe if he's drafted in the 1st round. But, that isn't going to happen. He's a mid 2nd rounder - at best. The real reason he's going pro is that he probably just doesn't want to be a college student-athlete any more. Maybe college isn't for him? In that case, going pro now is probably the best for him. But, I hope he has a good Plan B in case the NBA doesn't work out. However, I do wish him the best of luck and am thankful for the 2 years we did have him here.


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 7:07 a.m.

He can always make more money than my Bachelors degree is making for me over in Europe for the next 10 years if the NBA doesn't pan out. In those 10 years he can finish up college and be fine individually. It's kind of a bummer that He's gone though I was really looking forward to watching him at Crisler Arena again this year.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

His dream is to play in the NBA. He is not ready but if he can learn to use both hands on drives and shoot better from the outside, he'll make it. He has size which will likely tantalize some team to grab him. Even if he doesn't make an NBA team, there are plenty of other opportunities out there for him that will pay him well. He has simply elected to go all in on his dream to play professional basketball. By doing so, he will get the best accelerated training possible to achieve that dream. By doing so, he gives up his back-up plan of being a college graduate. I wish him the luck and I wouldn't bet against him, he's smart and a hard worker. Ps I doubt Beilein urged him to enter the draft, he just became involved once Darius indicated the direction he was going.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 3:08 a.m.

Biggest question is why did Beilien ever encourage him to explore the draft? Beilien should be fired. Of course maybe he is pretty smart. Now he has an excuse for another year of not getting better and maybe even get out of going to the NCAAs. He can not land the top recruits and now when he gets one showing some promise he ENCOURAGES him to leave. Please please Mr Brandon relieve us from this nightmare. Darius you are giving up on being a student at one of the elite schools in the country. Yes you can come back but never as a 20 year old BB star. You may never make it back to get that Michigan degree and it will payoff if you get it in more ways than you know. You are making a huge mistake but if you must good riddens.

David Briegel

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 2:53 a.m.

He would be a fool to risk his future. No sane person would turn down a million bucks to solidify your shot at a solid future in whatever you wish to accomplish. If you went to school to be an accountant and a Fortune 500 Firm offered you a million bucks if you came now, after your sophomore you, you would be a fool to say no. This is a capitalistic society. Loyalty to the buck is all that matters. It ain't the money, it's the amount!

James Roane

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 5:02 p.m.

Problem is, the million dollars is a straw man. He's only guaranteed money if he is a first round draft choice. There's no guarantee that he will be. Both decisions have risks. He could return, have a better year and be in better draft position, or not. Understand that today, no one is offering Morris anything, other than the right to be drafted. If there's a lockout he's out of luck. If he's a second round pick he has to actually make a team. If he's not drafted he has to find a team that wants to look at him and them make the team. Most scouts have him as a second round pick, maybe. Then again scouts have about 60 guys that "could go" in the second round. There are only 30 slots.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:19 a.m.

I can think of five reasons too -- and they all boil down to one thing: 1. Money 2. Money 3. Money 4. Money 5. Money College sports (especially basketball, football, and hockey) long ago stopped meeting the "Student-Athlete" model criteria. All three of those sports primarily serve as "minor leagues" for their professional equivalents -- and when you are 19, 20, 21, MONEY is the only thing you are thinking of -- especially when you are living in a 90 year old house with 5 roommates while your high school basketball team friends are driving corvettes and living in year-round sunny climates...


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 12:51 a.m.

I watched the games on TV as much as I could and I just do not see it. Peaked? I do not think so. This must be so frustrating for coaches, when players leave early. Seems like the teams that win championships are those with seniors on them, players who stay. I think Manny Harris could have owned the Big Ten this past season, and the team would have won several more games and he would have been a high pick. Hope it works out for him.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 3:09 a.m.

Heck Beilien encouraged him to look. Why I will never know but Beilien should be gone sooner than later.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 12:50 a.m.

Michael's only right if the scouts are wrong and Morris has nothing more to learn at this level.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 12:08 a.m.

I was not a collegiate athlete, so I could not relate to their stresses and temptations. BUT... seeing things through and living up to a commitment is something that nobody seems to think important anymore. We see that with these first and second year football players transferring when the going gets tough (i.e. they aren't good enough to start); we see that with bball players who always think that the grass is greener. A bucketful of cash is tempting. Absolutely. But, maturing, growing as a player and as a man--these are just as important and I don't know why that is never looked at as important. I hope that Morris succeeds, because he seemed like a good guy and teammate. But I just don't see it. And if you are not a high draft pick, teams do not stick with you because they have nothing invested in you. We see that over and over.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 11:50 p.m.

Wow, what coffee grounds are you reading. This is one huge mistake. Ok, so he gets a million(not), he will blow through that in no time. In a blink he is riding a bus in nowhere land europe. Hate to see this happen. He is listening to the wrong drummer and reading the wrong stories.

Darth Pablo

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 10:46 p.m.

A million dollars or a college education? I would have picked the education, but hey, what I do know.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 11:48 p.m.

You can buy a lot of credit hours with that kind of money.

Michael Rothstein

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

Pauly, He could easily do both. Don't know how many credits away he is from graduation but I believe he has taken summer classes the past two years and I know he finished out the semester this year. I think that is a bogus argument because he could always return to school (Juwan Howard did, Jalen Rose got his have countless others) if he chooses. Haven't been able to speak to him yet but wouldn't be shocked if he plans on finishing his degree at some point.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 10:39 p.m.

What's funny is, none of the 5 examples given have to do with his talent other than the first one. But that one seems to state that he's already peaked, so he better get out while the gettin' is good. Way to stick around and help UM turn the corner Darius. Guess family can't be THAT important to him (like he has stated) if he's willing to play in Europe. It's all about the money.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

I understand that if Darius goes number 1 in the draft he will make a lot of money. If he goes 29th like he is projected then he will probably make around 900,000 a year (if he makes the spurs team!). So who is he going to replace? Manu or Parker? The answer is neither and he will slip to the second round were he will then make around 700,000 a year and still not make the roster. That means he goes to europe or D league and makes who knows what! What a poor decision! The poor draft class excuse makes no sense! It means he wont be able to replace anyone on the roster because he should be going around 40th instead of 30th.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

His brother was playing in Europe last season. It's not like this is completely unfamiliar to his family.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 9:49 p.m.

OMG did he say his stock is HIGH...His stock is very low he needs to learn to shoot the ball. If he is a second rounder (no guaranteen contract) in which he might not even have the high of stock he will not see millions. This is the exact same decision as Manny Harris a bad one.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 9 p.m.

That's amazing you could thinh of FIVE reasons. I couldn't think of one.