In a press release issued Thursday, the Syracuse University Athletic Department announced Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris all plan to enter the 2009 NBA draft.
Although no caveats are attached to either Devendorf or Harris’ plans, the announcement indicates Flynn will not retain an agent, which would allow him the choice of returning to Syracuse to play during the 2009-2010 season.
While this announcement is not unexpected, it is a bit puzzling considering just last week, Eric Devendorf’s father said his son would be returning to school for his senior year.
Needless to say, the announcement has created a stir among Orange fans, who recognize the contributions of all these players to the team's dynamics.
Despite his off-the-court drama, Devendorf was a key contributor to this year’s team. Averaging 15.7 points per game, Devendorf ranks No. 14 on the school’s all-time scoring list with a career point total of 1,680.
Perhaps more important is Devendorf’s skill at the three-point line. During the 2008-2009 season, he made 82 three-pointers, becoming the 10th best shooter for a single season.
This past season, Harris averaged 12.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He has also been a factor at the free-throw line, ranking seventh in career free throws. Over his three-year career, Harris tallied 28 double-doubles.
Flynn’s record at SU has been impressive since he broke Carmelo Anthony’s record for the most points in a freshman debut. He was this season’s top scorer, averaging 17.4 points per game. In just two years, Flynn has scored 1,211 points.
During his career, Flynn has started in every game (73) and set an SU record, playing 1,418 minutes in the 2008-2009 season. He was named outstanding player in the 2009 Big East tournament and has been nominated for both the John R. Wooden and the Bob Cousy Awards.
So what does this all mean? It is unlikely either Harris or Devendorf will be playing in the NBA, at least not anytime soon. But there is money to be made playing in Europe, and since they both have children to support, they may be seeing dollar signs over diplomas at this point.
After suffering a torn ACL last season, Devendorf is well aware another injury could end his dreams of playing professional ball.
He is also on somewhat shaky ground with the university after an incident last year resulted in his being placed on probation. Another infraction could result in his being expelled from school, and while he’s resolved to stay out of trouble, this factor could put additional pressure on him to leave.
Devendorf’s leaving would create a void in team scoring, especially from the three-point line. He provides a gritty energy and enthusiasm during games that has served to spark the team in close games. The Orange has played with him and without him over the past two seasons and his contributions are most apparent when he’s not in the lineup.
As for Harris, he’s not been terribly consistent. Sometimes he appears to lack heart and seems to give up in the face of adversity. He had some stellar moments this past season, but he also had some games that were downright embarrassing. Because of his inconsistency, Harris’ leaving would have less of an impact going forward than Devendorf’s.
For obvious reasons, fans are most concerned about the possibility of an SU team minus Jonny Flynn. Of the three, his leaving will create the biggest hole in the lineup and relegate SU back to the bottom half of the Big East.
Flynn has been the glue that has held the team together for the past two years. His drive and determination never wavered, and his contributions are impossible to ignore. His desire to win and the effect he has on the rest of the team is immeasurable.
Flynn will consider all the factors, including his positioning in mock drafts. He’s an intelligent young man and has most likely set a benchmark for himself that will determine his decision. He might also be thinking ahead to the possibility of winning a national championship in 2010, certainly a possibility for the team should he decide to stay.
Will he stay or will he go? That is the question on the minds of Orange fans as Flynn ponders his options.
There’s still a lot of time. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is April 26. They have until June 15 to withdraw if they do not hire an agent.