BY DAVID BOCLAIR
It was a decision that pretty much everyone saw coming. So Darius Garland did not keep anyone in suspense.
The Vanderbilt freshman point guard who sustained a season-ending knee injury in his fifth game said he has played his last game for the Commodores. In an open letter posted on the school’s athletics website Tuesday, he said that he planned to make himself available for the 2019 NBA Draft.
“This decision was not an easy one due to my love for Vanderbilt, my teammates, Coach Drew, and his staff,” he wrote. “I am beyond thankful for the opportunity they have afforded me at Vanderbilt.
“Current NBA rules allow me the immediate opportunity to pursue my ultimate dream of playing professional basketball — which, for me, is a chance of a lifetime. Having discussed my options with my family and Coach Drew, I know this is the right move at the right time.”
Garland, a 6-foot-3 point guard out of Brentwood Academy, is widely considered one of the top 20 prospects in this year’s draft.
NBADraft.net projects him as the 17th overall selection. Sports Illustrated’s latest pre-draft rankings rate him as the 13th-best prospect. ESPN.com has him seventh overall in its pre-draft rankings.
“Still, my Vanderbilt story is not finished,” he wrote. “I fully intend to return to West End and earn my degree. I will always root for the Commodores, as this coaching staff continues to build a championship program in Nashville.”
Garland averaged 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.8 steals in the four-plus games he played. Without him, the Commodores have gone 5-7 and have lost their last five contests.
They host No. 1 Tennessee on Wednesday (6 p.m., ESPN2).
“My knee injury robbed me of my freshman season at Vanderbilt, and it took an emotional toll on myself, my family and my teammates,” he wrote. “I quickly learned that life does not always follow a script. In fact, adversity can hit when you least expect it.
“Now, the time has come for the next step in my journey. I have decided to forgo the remainder of my eligibility at Vanderbilt and focus on preparing for the NBA Draft.”
Photo: Gerry Images