SPOKANE — Kelly Olynyk, coming off one of the greatest seasons in Gonzaga basketball history, realizes many people presumed it would be a no-brainer for him to bypass his senior season and declare for the NBA draft.
Olynyk said he wishes the decision had been so easy.
“Maybe a week ago, I was leaning toward coming back,” he said Friday.
Gonzaga’s 7-foot All-American said he went back and forth for weeks before deciding Thursday night that he would turn pro. Olynyk has been projected as a first-round selection in the June 27 draft, and a possible lottery pick (top 14).
“I thought I’d be kicked out the door instead of leaving on my own, opening the door myself,” Olynyk joked during a news conference at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Olynyk thanked Gonzaga players, coaches, fans and administrators for their support during his four years there (he redshirted in 2011-12). He said teammates and coaches supported his decision to turn pro.
“A lot of them (teammates) said they knew it was inevitable, but it definitely wasn’t,” Olynyk said. “They all wished me the best.”
Coach Mark Few was out of town but issued a statement.
“We are very proud of what Kelly was able to accomplish at Gonzaga both on the court and in the classroom,” Few said. “We wish him the best in his next challenge.”
Olynyk, an academic All-American who has an accounting degree, said he spoke to former Gonzaga stars Adam Morrison and Austin Daye (both of whom left college early), and fellow Canadians Robert Sacre (another ex-Bulldog) and Steve Nash of the Los Angeles Lakers before making his decision.
Olynyk averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds this season. He used his redshirt season to improve his strength and inside game after playing a reserve role his first two seasons.
“I’ve learned a lot, grown a lot, matured a lot,” Olynyk said. “I’m ready to make that next step.”
NOAH’S STATUS IN DOUBT
The Bulls might be without center Joakim Noah in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Nets today.
Noah has plantar fasciitis in his right foot, raising concern about his availability. He said there’s a tear in his foot, meaning he might be limited or could sit out the series.
“It’s really disappointing for me,” he said. “You work really hard in the summer and the season to be ready for situations like this, and just to be hurt is really disappointing. It is what it is.”
Noah played in Chicago’s final two games but missed 12 of 30 games after the All-Star break. He’s expected to be replaced by Nazr Mohammed in the lineup.
The news wasn’t all bad for the Bulls. Coach Tom Thibodeau said the playing time limit for Taj Gibson, who has dealt with a sprained MCL, could be lifted.
PISTONS’ DRAFT ODDS RISE
The Pistons won a tiebreaker with the Wizards, giving them slightly better odds for the No. 1 pick in the draft. Both teams finished 29-53 this season. Detroit will have 36 chances out of 1,000 entering next month’s lottery, and Washington will have 35.McClatchy news services contributed to this report.