Francis leaves door open to return to Irish

Updated: April 14, 2005, 8:58 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Torin Francis will forgo his senior season at Notre Dame and enter the NBA draft, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 9.3 points and 7.9 rebounds last season when he led the Irish in rebounding for the third straight season. He had six double-doubles and scored a season-high 21 points against Rutgers.

In a statement released by the university, Francis said he does not yet intend to hire an agent. If he doesn't, he could withdraw from the draft by June 21 and return to Notre Dame.

"I feel like I owe it to myself and my family to explore this option," Francis said in the statement. "I feel comfortable with the decision I have made ... because I have the full support of Coach [Mike] Brey and the Notre Dame community."

Francis does intend to participate in the NBA's pre-draft camp at Chicago from June 7-10.

Brey said he hopes Francis will return to the Irish but acknowledged that he backed Francis' decision.

"My job now is to help him collect information on where he stands in regards to the June draft," Brey said. "We need to keep in mind that this is a young man that has undergone major back surgery and I understand that he may want to take advantage of the fact that he is healthy right now."

Francis' sophomore season ended prematurely because of the surgery. He played in 20 games and averaged 14.2 points and 8.8 rebounds. As a freshman, Francis averaged 11.1 points and 8.4 rebounds for a team that reached the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.

He started 83 games in three seasons and scored 931 points. He is tied for fourth on the school's career block list with 126.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press