Pitt's Gray, GW's Elliott, Arizona's Shakur to skip draft

Updated: June 19, 2006, 2:05 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

All-Big East center Aaron Gray will skip the NBA draft and return to Pittsburgh for his senior season, a decision that could make the Panthers the conference favorite going into next season.

Meanwhile, Carl Elliott has withdrawn from the draft and will return for his senior season at George Washington, and Mustafa Shakur will skip the draft and return for his senior season at Arizona.

UCLA's Jordan Farmar is staying in the draft and will forgo his final two years of eligibility.

The 7-foot Gray had an excellent junior season -- his first as a starter -- by averaging 13.9 points and a conference-leading 10.5 rebounds on a team that had a surprisingly good 25-8 record.

Gray declared for the NBA draft April 27, but did not hire an agent. That meant he could work out for NBA teams, but retain his college eligibility if he changed his mind -- much like Pitt guard Carl Krauser did before returning for his senior season last year.

Gray was in Orlando, Fla., during last week's pre-draft NBA camp, but staged only a private workout. Because of his lack of speed and the fact he has played only one college season as a starter, Gray was seen as a possible late first-round pick.

"My options were to play my senior year and graduate from the University of Pittsburgh or play in the NBA," Gray said in a statement issued Sunday by the school. "This decision will allow me to achieve both goals. I'm looking forward to continuing the success that we've established at Pitt and finishing my career."

Gray's return means coach Jamie Dixon will return eight of his top 10 players from a team that advanced to the Big East championship game, the fifth time in six seasons Pitt has done so. Gray's strong play in the middle -- he was the only conference player to average double figures in scoring and rebounds -- was greatly responsible for Pitt's better-than-expected season.

Gray, a former star player at Emmaus (Pa.) High, spent his first two seasons at Pitt as a backup to Chris Taft.

Gray, chosen as the Big East's most improved player, became only the sixth Panthers player to make the All-Big East team since Pitt joined the conference in 1982. He shot 52.6 percent (170-of-323) and had a team-high 49 blocked shots, and was the first Pitt player to average double figures in scoring and rebounding since Jerome Lane in 1987-88.

"While his progress has been substantial over the last three years, I believe his improvement in the coming season will be even more dramatic," Dixon said. "From the information we gathered from NBA people, the consensus was that Aaron would have been a first-round pick in this year's draft or next year's draft. Either way, he will have a long NBA career."

Shakur announced his intention in a news release Sunday. He did not sign with an agent so he had the option of returning to school.

"I received great feedback about my skills and my future," he said. "Right now, most of the talk about me was as an early to middle second-round pick. I feel that it is best for me to return to Arizona for my senior season because coach Olson will help me improve and become a first round pick.''

Coach Lute Olson said Shakur made the right decision.

"I think he has a better idea of the things he needs to do to make it as a professional," Olson said. "When I spoke with him, he was excited about being back with his teammates and the possibilities for next season. Mustafa will provide a great deal of leadership for us."

Shakur averaged 11.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists last season.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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