Michigan forward Mitch McGary was considering a return to the Wolverines after an injury-plagued sophomore season, but a looming one-year suspension from the NCAA after testing positive for marijuana will lead him to the 2014 NBA draft instead.
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports spoke with the potential first-round pick, who admitted using marijuana while hanging out with a group of friends ahead of the 2014 NCAA tournament. He was then tested—despite not playing for Michigan in the Big Dance due to injury—and informed of the failed test.
The report notes the NCAA rule in place at the time of the failed test was an automatic one-year ban from competition. If it had been a test from the school, McGary would have only been suspended for three games next season.
He said that difference led to his decision:
If it had been a Michigan test, I would've been suspended three games and possibly thought about coming back. I don't have the greatest circumstances to leave right now [due to the injury]. I feel I'm ready, but this pushed it overboard.
I don't think the penalty fits the crime. I think one year is overdoing it a little bit.
Interestingly, Wetzel also points out the NCAA changed its policy on recreational drugs just days after upholding the McGary decision on appeal. The penalty is now a half-season suspension for first-timers, but it decided against offering the lower punishment to McGary.
Michigan announced on its athletics site that McGary would officially be forgoing his remaining collegiate eligibility to enter the draft. The forward took responsibility for his actions and thanked everybody for their support:
I take full responsibility for this poor choice and want to apologize to everyone, especially those I have grown close to during my fabulous two years at the University of Michigan.
I love the University of Michigan and all it has allowed me to do. I have had my ups and downs, especially with my injury this season. I want to thank all the fans for embracing me. This has been the best two years of my life and I have some unbelievable memories. I know that I will be a Wolverine forever. Go Blue.
Andy Katz of ESPN said Michigan and McGary deserve credit for being open about the situation:
You can debate about archaic one-year suspension for a marijuana test but not for player/school not hiding. Others should notice. Own up.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) April 25, 2014
It's a tough situation for McGary, who was viewed as a possible lottery selection after a strong finish to his freshman season. He returned to school with hopes of bolstering his stock, but a lower back injury limited him to just eight games.
What type of NBA player will McGary be?
Returning to Michigan for one more season in which he would hopefully stay healthy was the best available option. But waiting out a one-year suspension before playing without any guarantee it would improve his NBA status wouldn't make much sense.
Given that the rules were changed so shortly after his status was finalized and he wasn't offered the shorter suspension, it's likely this is just the latest NCAA move that will draw heat. Whether McGary would have taken a half-season suspension is unknown, though.
Now, the 21-year-old will turn his attention to the draft process. Before the suspension was announced, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman had the 6'10", 255-pound McGary tabbed as a second-round pick (No. 35 overall).
McGary averaged 7.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and shot nearly 60 percent from the floor during the 2012-13 season while leading the Wolverines to the National Championship game vs. Louisville. Last season, he played in just eight games, but averaged 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 55 percent.
Entering the draft wasn't the ideal scenario, but an error in judgment and the since-changed NCAA rules left him very little choice but to make the jump.