By Tom Kensler
The Denver Post
BOULDER — Alec Burks has been called the most talented Colorado men's basketball player since Chauncey Billups. And like Billups, Burks will give up his final two years of eligibility to declare for the NBA draft.
Burks, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, said today he will leave the school to turn pro.
"I was really excited about coming back (to CU) until yesterday," Burks said. "I wasn't ready to give up the college experience. But I talked to a lot of people.
"I thought about (the possibility of an NBA owners) lockout," Burks said. "But it's a risk-reward. The NBA has been a dream of mine."
The Big 12 Conference's top scorer (20.5) for the recently concluded season, Burks had been tight-lipped about his decision-making process.
But he recently told The Denver Post during an interview that he would declare for the 2011 NBA draft if he received an indication that it is likely he would be selected within the first 15 picks.
CU coach Tad Boyle had been in contact with NBA team officials and had passed along the confidential information to Burks.
"I 'recruited' Alec last year at this time," Boyle said. "This time it wasn't about recruiting him. It was about supporting whatever decision he made."
Two well-known NBA draft-related websites project Burks to go higher than No. 15.
"I have to get stronger, it's a grown man's league," Burks said. "And I have to get stronger."
NBAdraft.net has Burks being selected 10th. DraftExpress.com projects him to go 12th. A recent article in NBA.com said Burks is the consensus choice among league scouts to be the top shooting guard available in this year's draft, ahead of Washington State junior Klay Thompson.
Burks recently visited family members in the Kansas City, Mo., area, to discuss his options. He has spoken often about taking care of his mother, Dina,
Burks previously said that the potential of a July 1 lockout by NBA owners would not enter into his decision. He said that if he decided to turn pro he would hire an agent and not merely test the waters. College players that declare for the draft without hiring an agent can withdraw by May 8 to retain their college eligibility.
"I'm glad everybody will get off my back now," Burks said. "I'm excited. It's a great day."
In two years, Burks has made his mark on the Colorado record book. His career scoring average (19.0) ranks only behind Cliff Meely (24.3) and Shaun Vandiver (20.6). He holds CU freshman (512 points) and sophomore (779) scoring records. And as a sophomore he became the first Buff in history to reach 770 points, 240 rebounds and 100 assists in the same season.
Billups also left college early for the NBA, 14 years ago following his sophomore season with the Buffaloes.