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U-M's Wagner foregoing senior season, entering NBA Draft

Associated Press • Apr 15, 2018 at 10:39 PM

For Michigan's Moritz Wagner, it was time to go.

Wagner announced his intentions to enter the NBA draft, hire an agent and skip his senior season Saturday in a first-person essay for The Players' Tribune titled "Thank You, Michigan."

"This wasn't an easy decision for me," Wagner wrote. "I know people always say that, and maybe it sounds like they don't 100% mean it. But I'm telling you guys — the idea of leaving Michigan, of leaving this community, is really tough This place has really started to feel like home."

Wagner (6-foot-11, 245 pounds) is projected to be an early-to-mid second-round pick by most analysts in June's draft. It's around the same area he was predicted to go last year before he pulled his name out at the withdrawal deadline, returned for his junior year and led Michigan to one of its most memorable seasons in program history.

He helped the Wolverines set a program record with 33 wins and reach the national title game earlier this month after leading the team in scoring (15 points) and rebounding (7.3) in the NCAA Tournament, where he was named to the West Region and Final Four All-Tournament teams.

He also finished the season as the Michigan's leading scorer (14.6 points) and rebounder (7.1) and shot a team-best 39.4 percent from 3-point range.

"This isn't yet the finish line for me, you guys. It's not even close," Wagner wrote. "I know there's still a long way for me to go to make it to the league, and to become the player that I want to be. Just saying, 'I declare for the draft' — it doesn't promise you anything. You still have to put in all the work, and you still have to prove it to the teams that you belong.

"But I'll tell you this: I'm ready. I feel like this is the right time for me. I feel like I'm ready to move onto this new challenge in life — to give it my best, and to do whatever it takes to make it at the next level."

Wagner, a native of Berlin, Germany who idolizes Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, had been contemplating his future since Michigan's postseason run ended. He said before the team's awards banquet on Wednesday that one of the most important things he learned from the draft process last year is that "at the end of the day, you got to listen to yourself."

He listed the fans, teammates, coach John Beilein, the city of Ann Arbor, the team's closed-door scrimmages and "all the little things about being a student" among the things he'll miss most.

However, he wrote he won't miss having to battle against all the fours and fives in the Big Ten, the scooter he had to ride around campus, and all the college basketball seedings and rankings.

"To me, Michigan will always be this place where, if you work hard enough, and you work together enough — you can become your best self," Wagner wrote.

Wagner recorded eight double-doubles and scored in double figures 33 times this season. He was also selected to the All-Big Ten second team and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten tournament after leading Michigan to its second straight title.

He'll be the seventh Wolverine to leave early for the NBA under Beilein since 2013, joining Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and D.J. Wilson.

Wagner is also the third Wolverine to announce his departure from the program this week — along with walk-on forward Brent Hibbitts (grad transfer) and sophomore wing Ibi Watson (transfer) — and will leave a gaping hole that will be difficult to fill next season.

"Coming to the United States at 18 years old and thriving the way he has is an amazing story. He truly embodies what Michigan basketball is all about," Beilein said in a statement. "His grit, selflessness, energy and a fun-loving side was contagious and a significant reason behind our success. That part of his personality will always be a part of Michigan basketball lore.

"Moe was committed to proving he could play at a high level every day. His daily desire for excellence, his skill set at that size, bodes well for him as he enters the world of professional basketball. I am confident he has a brilliant future awaiting him. We are excited to see what is in store for Moe in the months and years ahead. We wish him nothing but the very best in every way."

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