ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan sophomore Mitch McGary is entering the NBA draft, saying he had little choice after testing positive for marijuana during an NCAA tournament he couldn’t play in because of an injured back and because he was facing a one-year ban.
“I am ready to move on to the next stage in my life and enter the NBA draft,” the 6-foot-10 McGary said in a statement released by the school today. “Being a part of a program that values integrity, it is important to let everyone know of a poor decision I recently made. I tested positive for marijuana during the NCAA tournament. We were notified of that result after the Final Four. I regret thoroughly disappointing my family, coaches and administration.”
McGary was terrific in the 2013 tournament as a freshman, helping Michigan reach the national title game, where the Wolverines lost to Louisville. He considered jumping to the NBA then, but instead came back for his sophomore year and was a preseason All-American.
But McGary played only eight games this season. He was bothered from the start by a back problem and eventually had surgery. He was shut down shortly after a Dec. 14 matchup with Arizona.
It was unclear how his future would be impacted by the injury. Was his draft stock still high enough for him to leave, or would he need to come back to Michigan in 2014-15? McGary is old for his class, turning 22 in June, but his injury made his decision a difficult one — until the flunked drug test.
“I feel I’m ready, but this pushed it overboard,” McGary told Yahoo Sports.
The NCAA says its year-round testing program generally does not involve street drugs or stimulants, but its NCAA championship testing program — which includes events such as the basketball tournament — may include tests for those drugs. NCAA rules say that a positive test results in ineligibility for a calendar year — although last week, members voted to reduce the penalty for a first positive test for street drugs during NCAA championships, including marijuana.
The penalty will be reduced to a half-season from a full season, effective Aug. 1.
Athletes at Michigan are subject to random, year-round drug testing under the school’s policy, but if McGary had been caught under that program, the penalty could have been much less severe. Under Michigan’s rules, a first offense calls for an immediate one-week suspension from team activities. In addition, the athlete “must sit out the next 10 percent of the maximum allowable contests during the traditional competitive season or postseason of their respective sport.”
McGary’s departure leaves Michigan facing major personnel losses for a second straight season. The Wolverines lost guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA after the 2012-13 Final Four run, but they won the Big Ten anyway this year behind Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III. Michigan reached the NCAA quarterfinals before losing to Kentucky.
Now Stauskas, Robinson and McGary are all leaving early for the pros. The frontcourt looks particularly thin for next season, with Jon Horford transferring and McGary declaring for the draft.
The Wolverines will still have the rapidly improving LeVert in the backcourt, and both Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin return after contributing this season as freshmen.
McGary averaged only 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in his two-year career at Michigan, but his potential is tantalizing. In Michigan’s six NCAA tournament games in 2013, he averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds.
Although he was injured most of this season, he remained a fan favorite and an energetic presence on the Michigan bench.
“Mitch has had a tremendous impact on our program from the moment he committed to us,” coach John Beilein said. “The progress he has made on and off the court has been outstanding. His willingness to face a personal issue head on and his positive work ethic during his recent injury have helped him to grow in many ways.”