Murray State's Ja Morant declares for NBA Draft

Murray State's Ja Morant declared for the NBA Draft inside the CFSB Center on Wednesday in Murray.

MURRAY -- Tailor the finest of suits. Ja Morant is headed to the NBA.

The announcement, a surprise to no one, still had to come...and on Wednesday night at the CFSB Center in front of several hundred adoring fans and family, it did.

The super sophomore from Dalzell, South Carolina said a heartfelt goodbye to Murray State - home for the past 24 months - and declared for the upcoming 2019 Draft, set for June 20 at the Barclays Center in New York City.

A sure-fire lottery pick, with considerable chances at No. 1 and - more than likely - top three, Morant and his family spent the last ten-day deciding whether or not the move to the majors was necessary.

After all, why not just come back and do it all again? Average another 20-plus points and 10-plus assists for a second-straight season? Fill "The Bank" repeatedly, and take the show - the "Ja Morant Circus" - on the road once again?

But with this opportunity in hand - this dream of playing with the best in the world? Yeah, it was just too much to further delay.

"It was difficult," he said. "Obviously, me and my teammates had a great season this year. And just talking with my parents, we thought it was all going to happen the day we made the decision. But then, another day went by, and then another day went by. It was a very tough decision to leave Murray State. It's still a place in my heart, and I'll always be a Racer."

Morant's two years at Murray State will be beyond memorable. After averaging nearly 13 points, seven assists and seven rebounds as a freshman for a 26-6 ball club - rare numbers at any age - Morant took that to a whole 'nother level in 2018-19, where he led the country in assists by a mile and still averaged 24.5 points and 5.7 rebounds...just because he could.

And the questions about playing "tougher talent" were emphatically answered, too, when he showed Alabama, Auburn, Marquette, Florida State - and basically everyone else - his oozing talent.

His dunks and passes set Twitter and SportsCenter ablaze. And the team won together, 28 times, grabbing the school's fourth-ever NCAA Tournament win around Morant's triple-double - just the ninth in tourney history.

"Honestly, I was just trying to come in and do whatever I could to help the team and play the role that I was assigned," Morant said. "First year, I had Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller, so I was just more of a facilitator, and really just tried to share the ball a lot. It's one of my favorite things to do. And again, I did the same thing this year, averaging 10 assists. "I really just try to come in and do whatever I can. We had two great years."

What's next?

Morant's declaration - and his signing with Tandem Sports and Entertainment - means several things for both himself and the Murray State men's basketball program.

For Morant, he's first headed to Minneapolis and Los Angeles over the next few weeks for upcoming awards ceremonies before shifting his focus to continued training and preparation for the NBA Combine, the NBA Summer League and the upcoming 2019-20 NBA Season.

It's work that must come sooner rather than later.

"A whole lotta work," Morant said of his immediate future. "Nothing will change about me. I'll still work the same way I've been working for to get here to Murray State. It's just another level of basketball, and I'll continue to work to try to get better."

Fourth-year MSU head coach Matt McMahon - who's seen his fair share of MSU-to-NBA point guards in Isaiah Canaan, Cameron Payne and Jonathan Stark - issued a notice he's preached from the rooftops since Morant took his first steps in the Racer program some two years ago.

"I've said it all season long: Ja is a once-in-a-lifetime player," he iterated. "We look forward to celebrating his many future successes - both on and off the basketball court - for years and years to come. It's been an absolute privilege to get to coach you, Ja, and an absolute privilege to welcome the Morant family to our family here at Murray State. We wish you the very best, and can't wait to bring Racer Nation to whatever franchise is able to draft you in June."