LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky center Randolph Morris signed a free-agent contract with the New York Knicks on Friday, another shock to a Wildcat program already dealing with the departure of coach Tubby Smith.
Smith averaged 16.1 points and 7.8 rebounds for the Wildcats this season and was named first-team All-Southeastern Conference.
He will join a Knicks team that is fighting for an Eastern Conference playoff berth. The Knicks played in Cleveland on Friday night. There was no immediate word on when Morris would join the team.
Morris' decision comes one day after Smith left to become the head coach at Minnesota.
Kentucky spokesman Scott Stricklin said Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart met with Morris late Thursday night and asked Morris to wait until a new coach was in place before deciding whether to leave.
The signing ends Morris' enigmatic career with the Wildcats. He declared for the 2005 NBA Draft following his freshman season but went undrafted. He returned to the Wildcats after sitting out an NCAA-mandated 14-game suspension, averaging 13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 21 games.
Morris blossomed this season, becoming the most consistent player for the Wildcats, who went 22-12 and lost to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament last weekend.
Morris said he "expected" to return to the Wildcats following the loss but didn't completely rule out leaving for the NBA.
A provision in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement prevented Morris from re-entering the NBA Draft, and he was given free agent status throughout the 2006-07 season.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)