ATLANTA — The prospect of seeing his childhood dream play out in a matter of months was just too palpable for Gani Lawal to turn down.
Lawal just had to see if the rumors and hype he was hearing were true.
So off to the NBA draft the 6-foot-9 forward goes, hoping his skills are good enough to make him a top-flight draft pick by any one of the league’s 30 teams.
Inside Georgia Tech’s sports information offices Monday, the sophomore said he was “testing the waters” and entering his name in the NBA draft. During his announcement, Lawal also indicated that he would not be hiring an agent in order to retain the ability to return to the Yellow Jackets for the next season.
“I’d be lying to you if I said nobody’s been contacting me,” Lawal said, “but I’m going to put that on the backburner and address that and interview those respective people and their firms when the time comes.”
Lawal has until June 15 to formally remove his name from the draft.
“I feel I’m talented and ready, so I just wanted to go through the interview process,” he said. “I want to keep my options open for staying at Tech, but I think it’s important to gather all the necessary information.”
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt issued a statement on Lawal’s decision Monday, indicating that he will be fully behind his highly touted forward.
“We wish Gani the best as he goes through this fact-finding mission,” Hewitt said, “and we will continue to support him and his family as they go through the process.”
The news of Lawal’s decision comes on the heels of last week’s signing of Derrick Favors, the nation’s top high school player, according to Scout.com. With Favors coming to Georgia Tech next season, Lawal is believed to be seen as a valuable veteran who may take the incoming freshman under his wing.
Lawal also might be limited to fewer possessions than he had this past season. Favors seems to be more adept at hitting a longer-range jump shot.
Asked if Favors’ announced signing — Favors committed to Georgia Tech in January, but couldn’t sign until the spring signing day last Wednesday — made any impact on his announcement, Lawal said “it did not have an impact.”
Lawal later confirmed that by saying he initially informed teammates of the decision a week or two ago, in a private team meeting.
“Some of them were kind of surprised,” Lawal said. “But they were more supportive than anything, and they wished me the best.”
One person who doesn’t seem to be fully behind Lawal is his father, Gani Lawal Sr. The elder Lawal had long informed his son that he wished he would play out his junior season, work on his footwork and pick up extra weight.
“My dad, he supports everything I do 100 percent,” the junior said. “We may not agree on necessarily everything, but that’s a mom and dad relationship. But at the end of the day, he’s going to support everything I do. He’s going to be behind me 100 percent.
“The thing is, he hasn’t been very adamant. He’s told me his opinion but told me, ‘Whatever you do, I’m going to support you regardless.’ ”
Last season, Lawal averaged 15.1 points per game and had a team-high 9.5 rebounds per game while the Yellow Jackets struggled to a 12-19, 2-14 ACC record. He was also a third-team All-ACC selection and finished second in the conference in rebounding and field goal percentage.
As of last Wednesday, the mock NBA draft Web site, nbadraft.net, had Lawal projected to go late in the first round of the draft to the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis has the 27th pick. Other draft experts project him to go early in the second round.