Spencer Dinwiddie expects to be healthy and wealthy by summer's end.
The University of Colorado star point guard announced Thursday he's skipping his senior season and will declare for the NBA draft.
Dinwiddie said at a news conference in Boulder, Colo., that despite this year's deep pool of talent, "I just don't feel there are that many people in this draft that are better than me."
Dinwiddie's junior season was cut short when he tore his left ACL Jan. 12 at Washington and needed reconstructive surgery. He said he expects to be back on the court by August.
"I think I've got first-round talent across the board," he said. "Everybody of course is going to doubt my knee. (But, my) being able to go first week in August and being ready for the season, ... you're going to get Spencer Dinwiddie, not Spencer Dinwiddie with a bad knee."
A Los Angeles native, Dinwiddie was averaging 14.7 points and nearly four assists when he got hurt. The Buffs were 14-2 with a signature win over Kansas and ranked 15th at the time. They finished 23-12 and lost to Pittsburgh in their NCAA tournament opener.
Dinwiddie called it a bittersweet day, saying it was a difficult decision because he loves the program. Had he decided to return next season, the Buffaloes were expected to be a top-10 team nationally.
"Weighing the chance to do something special here versus something that is more what I would like to do probably, it was really tough," Dinwiddie said.
He said he was swayed last weekend when his doctor in Houston compared his recovery from knee surgery to that of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who returned from a torn ACL to win NFL MVP honors two seasons ago.
This is the third time in four years Colorado coach Tad Boyle has lost a star underclassman to the prospect of NBA riches. Alec Burks bolted after his sophomore season in 2011 and was chosen 12th overall by the Utah Jazz and Andre Roberson left last year and was selected 26th overall by Minnesota before being traded to Oklahoma City.
"Well, it doesn't make it any easier," Boyle said, but he drops their names on the recruiting trail. "You always have to use everything that happens in a positive light as best you can. It's hard as a coach when you look — I don't let myself think about it as a coach too often — but sometimes you're driving down the road and you're like, 'OK, if we had a healthy Spencer and Andre together this year with the rest of the squad that we got how special it could be. How good could we be with Spencer next year coming back?'
"Those are questions that kind of float into your mind, but they've got to get out of your mind quickly. This program, we talk about it with our team a lot, it's bigger than any one person, any one coach, any one player."
The Buffaloes have four other point guards on their roster for 2014-15: juniors Xavier Talton and Eli Stalzer, sophomore Jaron Hopkins and incoming freshman Dominique Collier, who was named 2014 "Mr. Colorado Basketball" after leading Denver East to the Class 5A state championship.
Dinwiddie said the Buffs should still be good next season without him and he's seen Collier play and suggested he, too, has a bright future.
Boyle said the way the Buffs bounced back from Dinwiddie's injury and subsequent midseason slump to rally and make the NCAA tournament for the third straight season was a testament to the program's strength.
"Like Spencer said, we've got good players in this program and we're going to continue to recruit good players to this program," Boyle said. "It certainly doesn't make it easier ... but again, we try to build sustained success. At some point everything's going to come together and the stars are going to align and guys are going to be healthy and we'll hopefully have a couple of NBA players on the floor at the same time playing together at the peak of their careers.
"When that happens, we can make the next jump and blow the doors off this place."
AP freelancer Monica Costello contributed.