Pitt’s Blair to declare for NBA draft

PITTSBURGH — DeJuan Blair guaranteed Pitt coach Jamie Dixon a year ago that he would play a full college career. One exceptional season changed all that.

Blair said Wednesday he will declare for the NBA draft and has begun hiring representatives, ending any possibility that the All-America center could return for his junior season.

Blair is projected as a mid- to late first-round pick, but his status could change — for better or worse — once he goes through the NBA’s various pre-draft workouts. Blair plans to hire an agent within the next several weeks, and has retained Pittsburgh attorney James Cook to handle him in marketing and advertising matters.

Blair, the only Pitt player in the last 50 years to make first-team All-America, could have returned to Pitt next season if he didn’t hire an agent or any other representative, but retaining Cook means Blair no longer has that option.

“There ain’t no turning back,” said Blair, who initially planned to leave his options open but decided only in the last few days that he was turning pro regardless. “I don’t think you should have gone into this situation unless you know you’re a first-round pick or not. I’m guaranteed of (being) a first-round pick, and I’m going to work hard to get to where I want to be. I control my destination and I’ll be all right.”

Asked what guarantees him of being a first-rounder with the draft 21/2 months off and teams still evaluating talent, Blair said, “I’m an Internet freak and I go on all the draft boards, and nobody’s got me going second round. That’s almost guaranteed to me.”

Blair’s decision is a gamble partly because he has twice undergone reconstructive knee surgery, a red flag for NBA teams seeking durability in a league where teams play more than twice as many games per season as college teams do.

Also, his weight as been a problem in the past — the 6-foot-7 Blair weighed more than 300 pounds in high school, but now is about 260.