April 7, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina junior Devan Downey is making himself eligible for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, meaning he can withdraw his name by June 15 and still return to school.

The 5-foot-9 guard announced his decision Tuesday.

"I feel at this point in my career it is important for me to test the draft waters to see what the next logical step in my basketball career is," Downey said in a statement.

By declaring for the draft early, Downey can work out for NBA teams and get advice about his draft standing, pulling his name if he isn't projected to go as high as he'd like.

The all-Southeastern Conference guard doesn't even show up on a number of mock drafts, but it wouldn't be the first time Downey has been underestimated. He has excelled at every level despite often being the smallest man on the court.

Downey averaged 19.8 points and 4.5 assists a game, ranking third in the SEC in both categories. He led the league with 2.9 steals a game.

"We support Devan's decision to enter his name in the draft and evaluate himself against other potential draftees at workouts," South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn said. "We will continue to work to gather accurate information in an effort to help Devan make the best decision for himself when the time comes."

The Gamecocks went 21-10 last season, tying Tennessee at the top of the SEC East, and just missing a trip to the NCAA tournament in Horn's first season.

The Gamecocks will be hard pressed to repeat that success if Downey leaves. They already have to replace senior Zam Fredrick's 32 minutes and 15.5 points a game.