As expected, University of Memphis Tigers sophomore guard Will Barton declared for the 2012 NBA Draft, foregoing his final two years of eligibility. His announcement came just six days after the 8-seeded Tigers were bounced from the second round of the West Region of the NCAA Tournament by 9-seeded Saint Louis, 61-54.
"I told coach after the (Saint Louis) game that I was going to go ahead and decide," Barton said. "I want to make a decision and not play around with coach (Josh Pastner) emotions. He needs to know what the team will look like and he needs to know who to go and recruit."
Head coach josh Pastner was with Barton as he told notified everyone of his decision. Pastner says he was going to support Barton in whatever he chose to do.
"We talked about it throughout the week, he and I communicated," Pastner said. "We gathered all the information and relayed it to Will and I was going to back him no matter what - he has made a great decision and will have a long time career at the next level."
Barton said his decision wasn't based on where he felt he would get drafted; it was based on his dream ever since he was a kid. He also stated that his younger brother, Antonio, helped him make up his mind but it was tough.
"The only thing I ever wanted to do was to be an NBA player," Barton said. "It was never about where I would be drafted or anything like that. I always just wanted to shake David Stern's hand."
Barton knows that he still has a lot to prove to NBA scouts. He also knows that he left empty promises to the fans of the Memphis Tigers, but assures everyone that he will always be a Tigers long after his playing career is over.
"That's what really made my decision real tough for me," Barton said. "It was about leaving this program, my teammates and coaches. I hope the real Tigers fans understand that this decision was best for me and that this place is my second home. I will come back after I leave. I will never forget these past two years - they have been the best two years of my life."
Barton departs the basketball program leaving an indelible mark. He scored over 1,000 points in just two seasons. He almost averaged a double-double (18.9 points, 8.1 rebounds per game) from the guard position and was the Conference USA Player of the Year this past season. But what fans won't ever forget is how he failed to make good on bringing Memphis a national championship like he promised.
"I almost wanted to stay," Barton said. "Watching all those NCAA Tournament games made me want to come back next year, so I had to quit watching them. But my brother said, 'you're ready to go pro' and that's all I needed to hear."