Micah Downs told The Seattle Times yesterday that he intends to apply for the 2005 NBA draft and forgo a basketball scholarship to Kansas.

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Micah Downs told The Seattle Times yesterday that he intends to apply for the 2005 NBA draft and forgo a basketball scholarship to Kansas.


The 6-foot-8, 195-pound senior forward at Juanita High School, who signed a national letter of intent with the Jayhawks in November, is considered one of the top prep players in the nation according to several recruiting services.


“You never really know for sure if you’re ready until somebody says you are, but I want to make this happen,” said Downs, who is believed to be the first high-school senior to declare for the June 28 draft. “I’ve always wanted to play in the NBA, but I never really thought about making the jump. That came up lately.”


Rivals.com rated Kansas’ 2004 recruiting class as the fourth best in the country behind Duke, Oklahoma State and Washington. The Web site ranked Downs as the 14th-best player in the country.


“Of all the seniors out there, Micah is one of the most skilled,” Kansas coach Bill Self told the Kansas City Star last month. “He’s probably about as fun to watch as any player out there because he just knows how to play.”


Downs’ father, Steven Downs, said the family has yet to notify Kansas, but he said his son doesn’t plan to sign with an agent or do anything that might jeopardize his college eligibility.


“We’re still talking to people to figure out what we can and cannot do,” Steven Downs said yesterday. “But make no mistake, Micah is firmly committed to going to the NBA next year. This is his dream.”


Downs expressed a sincere fondness for Kansas but said he couldn’t resist the gilded temptation of earning a three-year guaranteed contract in the neighborhood of $7 million if he were to be selected in the lottery (first 14 picks) of the draft.


“This is the chance of a lifetime,” he said. “How can I turn this down?”


Because Downs spent the first two years of his high-school career out of state, he hasn’t been as touted locally as the other members of a heralded recruiting class that includes Seattle Prep’s Martell Webster, Snohomish’s Jon Brockman, O’Dea’s Mitch Johnson, Rainier Beach’s Terrence Williams and Roosevelt’s Marcus Williams.


Webster is considered the top high-school player in the state, but an NBA source said yesterday that Downs “is just as good as Martell and may even have a little more upside.”


Another league official said Downs, who is averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds, will impress teams in workouts because he has a 37-inch vertical jump, an 8-foot wingspan and adept ballhandling skills for a 6-8 player.


During a short workout with personal trainer Steve Gordon on Mercer Island yesterday morning, Downs displayed exceptional explosiveness off the dribble and an accurate mid-range jumper.


“You’ll hear a lot of people compare him to Mike Dunleavy Jr., but I think he’s a little further along than Dunleavy was at this age,” Gordon said. “The best thing I can say about Micah is the kid works hard. He’s a winner.”


Downs began seriously considering an immediate jump to the NBA shortly after playing with the star-studded Friends of Hoop, a traveling summer-basketball team that featured Webster, Brockman and Johnson and won the Nike Main Event in Las Vegas in July.


Juanita is Downs’ seventh high school, which caused many to believe he has moved so often for athletic reasons.


“Blame me,” said Steven Downs, who works as a carpenter to support four children and his wife, Gerri. “We moved because I needed work and because we had family issues with my folks.”


Downs attended two schools as a freshman in Las Vegas, three as a sophomore in Nevada and Montana, and Bothell as a junior. Steven Downs said Micah made the switch to Juanita because of academic concerns.


The elder Downs said his son maintains a “B” average and received a passing score on the SAT.


“It’s been kind of hard moving, but I think it’s also been good for me,” Micah Downs said. “I can adapt to things pretty quickly. I make friends good. I get along with people pretty well. I haven’t really been settled a lot in my life.”


Last season, he averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds for Bothell, which posted a 16-7 record.


Downs admits that he’s determined and acknowledged that observers have also described him as arrogant and aloof.


“Everybody gets along great at first, but once you get to learn people and know people, they probably get irritated about the things you do and I probably get irritated about the things they do,” he said. “I don’t know. People get jealous.


“I’m a competitor and I want everybody to do good out on the court. I don’t know. Maybe they don’t have the will to win as much as I do. I just want to win so bad, it’s hard sometimes.”


Downs’ reputation took a hit after he skipped a mandatory team retreat to work out individually. Because of his absence, new Rebels coach Ezechiel Bambolo stripped him of his captaincy and benched him for the start of a much-anticipated game against Bothell on Dec. 17.


Downs is serving a two-game suspension for making an offensive gesture to a referee during the game.


“I’m embarrassed about it, and I am sorry about it. It was unprofessional and not how I want to represent myself or my school,” Downs said. “I wish I could be there for my team because it’s hard to sit there and watch and see them struggle.”


The Rebels (3-2) lost 56-48 to Gonzaga Prep on Wednesday.


Downs will miss Tuesday’s game at Capital of Olympia and is eligible to return Thursday against Chief Sealth.


“I’m in the fortunate position because I was around Martell, who was hurt for most of the summer, and those other guys,” said Bambolo, who was an assistant on Friends of Hoop. “Martell has a true NBA body, but if you’re talking about ballhandling, shooting skills, creativity and being able to create for others, then Micah is the best in the state.”


But Bambolo believes Downs isn’t ready for the NBA.


“I would stay one more year at a top-level school, maybe even two, where he is up against, night in and night out, quality competition,” he said. “I don’t know about jumping just yet. I think it would be premature.


“His (skills) speak a lot louder than his mental state, just him understanding what he’s getting himself into. I don’t think his experience in high school has prepared him for that just yet. In that sense, he still has a lot of growing up to do.”


Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com