April 29, 1996: UMass center Marcus Camby turns pro

  • University of Massachusetts center Marcus Camby shoots during warmup before his game against Arkansas in the NCAA East Regionals at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Thursday, March 21, 1996. AP

Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2020 5:22:56 PM

Editor’s note: On April 29, 1996, UMass All-American and national player of the year Marcus announced his decision to turn pro. The following story was published in the Gazette on April 30.

AMHERST — At peace with himself and his decision, Marcus Camby yesterday bade farewell to the University of Massachusetts Minutemen, and said hello to the NBA.

Speaking before a packed room of reporters, Camby declared himself eligible for June’s NBA draft. He apparently will forgo his senior year at UMass, a school he led to its first-ever Final Four appearance last month.

“This decision has been very hard, but I feel that I am ready to pursue my lifelong dream, to play in the NBA,” Camby said.

The door to return to UMass was left open just a crack. Camby said he has not signed with an agent, meaning that he could return to school before the draft, or even, conceivably, afterwards (assuming he doesn’t sign a contract). Those possibilities are considered remote, however. Coach John Calipari called them a “one in a million” shot.

“I even told him, ‘Your heart is in this,’” Calipari said. “‘Now go make it work.’”

Asked what advice he received from Calipari, Camby smiled. “It was like,” he started, before making a significant pause for effect, “‘Come back.’”

Actually, Camby said, Calipari was extremely supportive of the decision. The same goes for his UMass teammates.

“The toughest thing is losing a friend that you had for three years,” said Carmelo Travieso. “But it’s everybody’s goal. We’re very happy for him.”

Camby, the national player of the year, admitted that his decision was solidified about a week ago. It was a decision he arrived at through self-examination.

“I looked into the mirror every day, and I said, ‘Marcus, are you ready to do this?’” Camby said.

Ultimately, he felt that he was. His concerns ultimately faded.

He said he is still determined to get his college degree, and that he is on track to graduate.

For those who claim that the 6-foot-11-inch, 220-pound Camby is not strong enough for the NBA, Camby responds, “Length is strength.”

Calipari also addressed the bulk issue by saying, “Did you ever see pictures of Bird and (Kevin) McHale when they first came in the league? Those guys were skinny. Skin-ny.”

Camby said he was also influenced by a desire to provide for his family. He lives at home with his mother, Janice, and his two younger sisters, Mia and Monica. “My mother deserves better than what she has right now,” he said.

The toughest thing about leaving, he said, would be saying farewell to UMass. He termed his college experience “the best three years of my life,” and added, “I will never leave UMass in my heart.”

Still, the NBA calls. Camby is widely expected to be one of the top three picks in the draft. He will bring multiple talents to the table, as well as a polite and dignified style.

“The NBA is going to be ecstatic to get that kind of person,” Calipari said.

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