All-America guard James Harden of Arizona State says he will hire an agent and make himself available to the NBA draft.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore from Los Angeles, the Pac-10 player of the year, made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday at Arizona State.
"I felt I'm ready for it as far as taking my game to the next level," he said. "It's a dream come true. It's my dream since I put a ball in my hand, so why not take the opportunity?"
College players can declare for the draft but have the option of pulling out and returning to college if they have not yet hired an agent. Harden, the first Arizona State player to be named a first-team All-American by The Associated Press, won't keep that option open. But he said the decision to go pro wasn't as automatic as many perceived.
"People thought it was going to be an easy decision — 'Well, I'm leaving,'" he said, "but it wasn't the case because I have great teammates here, great coaches. Everything about this program made it hard to leave."
Harden was the prize recruit that allowed Herb Sendek's team to compile consecutive 20-win seasons in the coach's second and third years at the school.
"He's been an amazing ambassador for our university. He's been a great player for our team," Sendek said. "He's been a terrific friend and a real gentleman. We couldn't be prouder of him and certainly we couldn't be more grateful for all that he's helped us with, all that he's brought to our table."
Arizona State hadn't had two 20-win seasons in a row since 1980-81.
This year's team went 25-10 and beat Temple in the first round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Syracuse.
"I haven't talked to anyone in the NBA as far as where I'm projected to go," Harden said, "but my coaches have been talking to people and it's looking pretty high right now as far as me and my draft status. ... I'm in the best position right now as far as getting drafted at a high place so why not take it."
He led the Pac-10 in scoring at 20.1 points per game but struggled in the postseason, scoring nine points against Temple and 10 against Syracuse.
"People who've seen me over the year know what I can do and I know what I can do as a basketball player," he said. "Those two games won't matter toward me and my decision and what I do."