April 14, 2008

Beasley: I think I proved myself

As he strode into the news conference on the Kansas State campus to announce his life-changing decision on Monday afternoon, All-American Michael Beasley glanced at the eight TV cameras and 100 reporters that gathered at Bramlage Coliseum, offered his trademark grin and said, "I've got to be serious here?" A moment later, the 19-year-old officially announced what most already predicted, bringing an end the most celebrated one-year career in the school's history.

"I would to announce that I'm entering my name into the 2008 NBA Draft," Beasley said.

Then the National Freshman of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year who enjoyed one of the best seasons of any freshman in NCAA history but, who for the first time since arriving in Manhattan appeared noticeably nervous, dropped his eyes at the table in front of him to read his prepared statement and broke out in laughter.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I have the wrong paper."

Fortunately, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound power forward, regarded by his teammates as a big kid, recovered on his big day. Beasley, wearing a striped dress shirt, started out a 25-minute news conference by thanking Kansas State, K-State coach Frank Martin, his teammates, family and fans for their love and support and even admitted that he toiled over the decision.

"It's been a long process weighing the pros and cons," Beasley said. "We lost in the second round this year. That was pretty big, you know, but I think it's time to take my game to the next level."

"I think I proved myself during the course of the season," he added. "I just think it's time for new challenges."

Beasley is projected to go no worse than No. 2 in the NBA Draft in June after he spent five months crushing school and Big 12 records while guiding K-State to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1996 and its first tournament win in 20 years.

Beasley averaged 26.2 points and a nation-leading 12.4 rebounds and finished with the second-most rebounds and third-most points of any freshman in NCAA history. Aside from posting 28 double-doubles, the most since Tim Duncan and also the most by any freshman in history, Beasley led the nation in four other categories, set 30 school records and eclipsed 17 Big 12 marks en route to recording the best season by a player in the league's history.

For K-State fans, it was the equivalent to Michael Jordan's retirement - the first time. Forget the absence of championship rings and MVPs. Nobody this side of the Flint Hills had ever witnessed such a dominant single season by a player in purple in white. The first K-State player to be named a Wooden Award finalist, Beasley's statistics topped the best seasons by all the other K-State legends.

The child at heart who instigated a season-long spree of practical jokes with roommate and NBA-hopeful Bill Walker, steadily gained and maintained his stature as the most serious talent in college basketball. All the while, the Washington D.C. native remained mindful to the trait that will define his legend as much as his record-setting numbers: Be easy. Keep things simple.

However, it appears Beasley's decision wasn't so simple. He met with family, coaches and others in "his group," who told him to "follow your heart." He admitted that when he went to sleep on Sunday night, "I was leaning toward staying." With Martin seated beside him in the Legends Room inside Bramlage, Beasley said he sought consul from his head coach as early as Monday after a workout on the court.

"I kind of made my mind up, then went back to being undecided, then made my mind up again," Beasley said. "Today was when the decision stuck. I talked to Coach one last time and he said, 'The world is in your hands. Just take it.'"

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