SDSU’s Leonard still mulling NBA decision

by Edward Lewis

SDSU's Leonard waves to cheering fans at Monday's celebration. Courtesy of Antonio Zaragoza, photo editor.

Kawhi Leonard was introduced at Monday afternoon’s San Diego State men’s basketball celebration and he didn’t even get two feet up the steps when the crowd started its chants.

“One more year!” fans screamed.

“Two more years!” others yelled.

“Stay Kawhi, stay!” they all chanted in unison.

He humbly finished walking up the stairs, waved, sat down and soaked it all in.

For Leonard, his upcoming decision to stay at SDSU for his junior season or leave for the NBA Draft was going to be the toughest choice he’d ever have to make. After the overwhelming support for him to stay, though, it’s become even harder.

“It makes your decision harder because you see how much support you have behind you and you don’t know what is at the next stage,” Leonard said. “So it just makes the decision harder.”

As of Monday afternoon, Leonard wasn’t leaning one way or the other. He said he’s always dreamed of playing in the NBA, but leaving his teammates and his friends behind at SDSU makes the decision to leave a brutal one.

Plus, not finishing what this season’s 34-3 squad started eats at him.

“I’m a competitor, so it makes you want to come back and win a national championship,” Leonard said. “But it’s just a decision I have to make.”

Leonard said he has no timetable for his decision. Underclassmen can submit their names for the NBA Draft by the April 24 deadline and have until May 8 to withdraw their names and retain their eligibility, unless they sign with an agent. Leonard isn’t sure whether he will even enter his name, let alone sign with an agent.

Head coach Steve Fisher was at the Final Four in Houston last week and said he gathered information from experts, scouts and coaches on Leonard’s future.

“I’m going to meet with Kawhi and his family over the next few days and then he’ll have a decision to make,” Fisher said. “I will give input, but it will be a decision that Kawhi will ultimately make. I’m a fact finder for him.”

NBADraft.net has Leonard going 10th overall. MyNBAdraft.com has him going 11th. ESPN’s NBA Lottery Mock Draft by Chad Ford has Leonard going 11th as well. Plus, with national outlets reporting that both Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes will forego the NBA Draft this year, an already weak class will get weaker.

They’re all things Fisher, Leonard and his family have to consider. But one thing in this cloud of NBA uncertainty is for sure: SDSU wants its star forward back.

“I want him back more than anything,” sophomore guard Chase Tapley said. “That’s my brother. I came in with him. We had an amazing two years. I want him back more than anything.”