NORMAN — The NBA can wait.
Oklahoma freshman Blake Griffin announced Wednesday that he will return to OU for his sophomore season rather than make himself eligible for the NBA Draft.
"It's about me being ready," Griffin said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Griffin was a first-team All-Big 12 selection and averaged 14.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. He helped get the Sooners back to the NCAA Tournament after last year's team failed to do so, ending a 25-year postseason streak.
Griffin, who was the Sooners' leading scorer and rebounder, had been discussed as a possible top-10 pick in the NBA Draft. But he has also discussed his desire to play one more season with his older brother, Taylor, who will be a senior at OU next year.
Griffin is turning down some big money to stay at OU. Based on the NBA's slotted pay scale for draft picks, Griffin would be looking at $2 million guaranteed for three years by being a top-10 pick, where several mock-NBA Drafts have him projected. Being selected anywhere in the first round guarantees $900,000 a year for three years.
OU coach Jeff Capel said that Griffin turned down a chance to be a Top 10 pick, but "He made an informed d3ecision on what he wants to do. It may not be popular with some people, but it's his decision."
"Either way, I'd be happy," Capel said. "There is no one who is a bigger Blake Griffin fan than me."
However, he could boost his draft stock by improving his offensive game, especially away from the basket. That, along with his size and athletic ability, would push him toward the top of the draft next season.
And Griffin's decision will look much smarter if the NBA and NCAA come to an agreement on their desired rule change that would force players to stay in college for two years. Should that rule be enacted next season, it would eliminate any freshmen-to-be from skipping to the NBA after one year, thus diluting the draft pool.
Griffin said he didn't see the point of entering his name into the draft without an agent, only to withdraw it later.
Griffin's return greatly improves the outlook for the 2008-09 Sooners. McDonald's All-American guard Willie Warren has signed with OU and will boost the Sooners' perimeter play. Griffin's return gives them a powerful inside game to go with it.
Capel currently has one scholarship left to fill. He could use that to bring forward Keith Clark, who was declared academically ineligible and is currently attending Rose State College, back to the team.
Or Capel could use the scholarship for another player. The most attainable target seems to be 6-foot-7 swingman Juan Pattillo from the College of Southern Idaho. But Pattillo recently scheduled a visit to Kentucky, where his CSI teammate Kevin Galloway has committed to play.
Pattillo eliminated South Florida from his list of potential schools on Tuesday, according to his coach, Barret Peery. He will visit Kentucky this weekend and OU April 18-20.