WVU's Ebanks signs agent, says goodbye
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Devin Ebanks ended whatever suspense remained concerning his future with the West Virginia basketball program Tuesday night.
The sophomore forward from Long Island City, N.Y., who entered the NBA draft last month said he's signed with an agent, an act that formally ends his days as a college player.
"This is goodbye," said Ebanks, who declined to identify his representation. "I'm in a position right now to be drafted high, so this is the end for me."
Farewells were the theme at the team's end-of-the-year banquet at Waterfront Place hotel. Seniors Da'Sean Butler and Wellington Smith were on hand for one last time. Redshirt junior Jonnie West announced he won't play next season.
West, who redshirted as a true freshman in 2007 for former Coach John Beilein, will graduate this month and spend next year working on his master's degree in business administration.
"The thing they understand and I understand is they'll always be a part of our family," Coach Bob Huggins said.
West's departure leaves WVU with 12 scholarship players for next season, including incoming freshmen Noah Cottrill, David Nyarsuk and Darrious Curry.
The NCAA allows 13 scholarships.
Cam Thoroughman, another redshirt junior who redshirted for Beilein in 2007, said he will graduate this month and work on a master's in science industrial relations next year, but be back with the team.
Ebanks left only a little wiggle room when he entered the draft by not signing with an agent, but workouts and reviews have gone so well he said he was compelled to follow his dream. He had until Saturday to withdraw.
"I wish him all the best," said sophomore forward Kevin Jones, who admitted he, too, thought about entering the draft.
"He was a really valuable player for us and I know he's going to be a really good player at the next level. The last two years, he's been like a brother to me. We've grown close to each other, so I'm sad to see him go, but I'm happy for him, too. He's got great talent."
Ebanks is confident he's a first-round pick, which comes with a guaranteed contract. The two-round draft is June 24 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
"It's a dream come true," the 6-foot-9 Ebanks said. "It's so close now I can taste it. It's why I work so hard every day now. It's a sad time, but at the same time, it's a happy time. I know I worked hard and I know we made a run. I really can't be sad about that."
Ebanks has been working out in Las Vegas with noted instructor Joe Abunassar, who is something of a guru for pre-draft preparation. Ebanks returned to campus Wednesday in time for the banquet and will return to Abunassar's gym soon.
The winner of the team's "Best Defender" prize Wednesday, Ebanks said the focus of his workouts had been on offense. He averaged 11.2 points in 69 career games, but shot just 46.3 percent from the floor and was a collective 8-for-70 from 3-point range.
"I'm trying to get back in the groove, but right now everything's working out well and I'm playing pretty well on offense," he said. "Everyone thought I couldn't shoot the ball well, but it's something I've had to work on and I've been working on it for a month. Right now I'm excited about the way I'm shooting."
Butler, who was walking without crutches and had his surgically repaired knee braced beneath blue jeans, was named the "Team MVP." Smith was named "Unsung Hero," Thoroughman "Team Man," Jones "Most Improved," Joe Mazzulla "Sixth Man," and Darryl "Truck" Bryant "Charge Leader" for taking the most charges.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.