Rush announces plan to skip his senior year at MU, enter draft

Thursday, April 11, 2002

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Kareem Rush said Wednesday he will skip his senior season at Missouri and enter the NBA draft.

At a news conference with coach Quin Snyder at his side, Rush didn't completely rule out a last-minute decision to stay at Missouri. But he made it clear that's not something he plans to do.

"I'm going to go after this 100 percent," Rush said. "I look forward to giving this my all and playing in the league next year."

Rush hasn't hired an agent, a move that would have prohibited his return under NCAA rules. Rush has until a week before the June 26 draft to change his mind. He backed away from earlier statements in which he said he would enter the draft only if projections indicated he would be a lottery pick -- that is, one of the first 13 players selected.

"I plan on being one (a lottery pick)," Rush said. "I'm going to go out there and prove I should be one."

The 6-foot-6 Rush is a two-time All-Big 12 pick who averaged 19.8 points this season in helping lead the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament's West Regional final, where Missouri lost to Oklahoma 81-75.

But Rush struggled at times, often when facing double-team defenses, and was criticized for sometimes relying too much on 3-point jump shots.

In 84 career games at Missouri, Rush averaged 18.9 points, second only to Derrick Chievous' 19.9 average from 1985-1988.

Snyder said it was always clear that Rush had a talent for scoring. But this year, he said Rush learned to see the game at a higher level. Snyder said there were games where Rush struggled to score but led the team in rebounds and assists.

Still, Snyder said, "There's a premium on putting that orange ball in a round basket."

Rush and his older brother, JaRon, led Pembroke Hill High School of Kansas City, Mo., to the Missouri Class 2A state championships in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

But the school had to forfeit those titles after it was learned an AAU coach paid the brothers. Both were suspended for part of the 1999-2000 season, with JaRon missing 24 games at UCLA and Kareem nine at Missouri.

JaRon left UCLA after his sophomore season two years ago, believing he was ready for the NBA. There were no takers in the NBA draft, and he since has drifted through the fringes of the sport. In February, he was cut by the Kansas City Knights of the minor-league ABA after missing practice.

"I asked him for advice, but he really didn't have much to say," Kareem Rush said. "He said, 'Just trust your heart."'

Snyder said he didn't specifically recommend to Rush whether to stay or go, and Rush said he didn't get that sort of advice from anyone. Rather, he made the choice on his own.

As for Missouri, Snyder noted that he's losing 50 percent of his scoring with the departures of Rush and Clarence Gilbert, the team's only senior. "But I feel good about the kids we have coming back," Snyder said.

Rush's decision was similar to that of former Tigers teammate Keyon Dooling, who announced plans to leave Missouri two seasons ago after his sophomore year and also did not initially sign with an agent.

Dooling was selected 10th overall by the Orlando Magic and quickly was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.

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