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Last Call for Butler, Smith ... And Ebanks Too?

Senior Night tonight for WVU against Hoyas

March 1, 2010
BY JIM ELLIOTT

MORGANTOWN - They say things come in threes. West Virginia men's basketball fans are just hoping they don't leave that way.

For sure, tonight's 7 o'clock Big Monday showdown with No. 11 Georgetown will be the final Coliseum showing for Da'Sean Butler and Wellington Smith, both seniors who are set to pick up their degrees in May.

But there's sophomore who may be saying goodbye to the home fans as well. A year ago this time, Devin Ebanks' name was bandied about as a possible NBA Draft pick. Every time he was asked, he said he was coming back.

This time, he's not nearly as committal.

''That's out there,'' acknowledged Ebanks, who has enjoyed a much better second half to this season and is averaging 12.3 points and a team-best 8.5 rebounds. ''I've heard about it. But I just try to stay level-headed and be the player I can be for my team.

''Right now, it's just West Virginia basketball these last two games, then the tournaments. After that, I'll make my decision. Right now I'm thinking about these games.''

That's not a yes.

The latest mock draft on NBAdraft.net has Ebanks going 13th to Memphis, whatever that knowledge is worth. But that's a lottery pick. Last season, North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough was selected at that spot by the Indiana Pacers and now has a contract that pays him $1.5 million this season and nearly $1.7 million next season, with a $1.8 million option for his third year.

That's pretty tough money to turn down. Ebanks is majoring in athletic coaching education, but only the great ones like Bob Huggins make that kind of money. And it takes much longer to get to that point.

Meanwhile, for Butler and Smith, there's no mystery. This is it. They just hope it turns out better than it did for Alex Ruoff last season, when he waved an emotional goodbye prior to the game, then went out and posted a goose egg in the scoring column for the first time in a game since he was a seldom-used freshman.

Butler will leave as one of the most productive players in school history, the kind only surpassed by the likes of Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley. And no one's allowed to wear their numbers.

But, 1,914 points and 99 double-figure scoring games later, the 6-foot-7 forward from Newark, N.J. has only one home game left.

''It went quick,'' Butler said. ''I'm just blessed and happy to have had the opportunity to come here and play and make something of myself.''

That same mock draft has Butler going 29th to none other than Memphis, which would not only give West Virginia an unprecedented two first-round draft selections, but would pair them as Grizzlies.

Smith, who has started for two-plus years, will leave as one of the school's all-time great shot blockers. He's swatted 150 shots during his career, which ranks him fourth in the record book behind D'or Fischer, Phil Wilson, and Marcus Goree. By the time he's done, he should be able to catch Goree, as he trails him by seven with at least four games left, likely more.

''I've thought about it,'' Smith said of his Coliseum finale. ''It's something that I'm going to take in as it comes. It's something I'm going to look forward to, but also, the season's not over.''

The rest of the Mountaineers are presumably staying, though Joe Mazzulla graduated in December and Jonnie West will graduate in May. Both have worn redshirts and have a season of eligibility remaining.

Whatever the case, it's clear the Mountaineers want to send them out as winners.

''We're going to have to play our (butts) off for those two (Smith and Butler),'' freshman Danny Jennings said. ''It's their last home game. It's a big game. Big Monday against Georgetown.''

 
 

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