- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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The NBA draft continued to take shape Thursday as college underclassmen, high school seniors and international players either withdrew their names or remained on the list of early-entry candidates for next week's draft.
Saint Joseph's junior point guard Jameer Nelson and Texas Tech junior guard Andre Emmett will each return for their senior seasons, while Georgetown junior Michael Sweetney, Alabama sophomore Mo Williams and high school senior Kendrick Perkins decided to remain in the draft.
Blair Academy (N.J.) senior forward Charlie Villanueva also decided to attend college over taking his chances in the draft, pulling his name out of the draft to attend Connecticut next season.
Nelson failed to get the first-round guarantee he was looking for since the Chicago pre-draft camp two weeks ago and has decided to return to Hawk Hill. Nelson, who submitted the required letter to the NBA office Thursday, never signed with an agent and thus retained his final year of collegiate eligibility.
"After considering all the options, the best decision for my family, my education and my life is to return to school and complete my college career," Nelson said. "I love St. Joe's, the coaches and my teammates, and the chance to help our program reach even greater heights is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. This is also a chance to give back to something that has given so much to me."
Emmett decided to return to the Red Raiders after meeting with Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight Thursday afternoon. Emmett failed to receive a guarantee that he would be selected in the first round. He went to the Chicago pre-draft camp but averaged a mere seven points in three games.
"He is very anxious to get back to working with his teammates to continue his college career," Texas Tech assistant coach Bob Beyer said. "He's a legitimate player of the year in our conference along with Missouri's Arthur Johnson and Ricky Paulding. He still needs to dedicate himself but he's a really, really good college basketball player with a future to get to the NBA."
Emmett averaged 21.8 points a game for the Red Raiders and was a first-team all-Big 12 selection his sophomore and junior seasons.
Memphis head coach John Calipari said Perkins phoned him Thursday morning and told him he would stay in the draft instead of honoring his commitment to play at Memphis next season. The deadline to withdraw from the June 26 draft was 5 p.m. ET. NBA spokeswoman Teri Washington said the league will release the full early-entry list on Friday.
"He's going to stay in the draft without a guarantee that he'd be in the first round. Amazing," Calipari said. "I'm not sure who is talking to these kids."
Memphis lost signee Qyntel Woods and Amare Stoudemire, who committed to, but didn't sign with, the Tigers in last year's draft. Memphis freshman Dajuan Wagner left after one season for last year's draft, too. All three were first-round picks.
Perkins has worked out in Houston for San Antonio, and there had been speculation that the Spurs or even the Dallas Mavericks, who have the Nos. 28 and 29 picks, respectively, in the first round would select Perkins. That still might happen, but Perkins apparently didn't have a guarantee that he would be selected when he made his decision to stay in the draft.
The 6-foot-10, 285-pound Perkins was a McDonald's All-American out of Ozen High in Beaumont, Texas. He led Ozen to a 96-3 record in his last three years there, averaging 27.5 points and 16.4 rebounds as a senior.
Two more high school seniors elected to stay in the draft -- bringing the total to five with Perkins, projected No. 1 pick LeBron James and possible second-round pick James Lang -- as Arizona recruit Ndudi Ebi and Mississippi State singee Travis Outlaw each will bypass college.
Outlaw, a 6-8 forward, averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots per game as a high school senior.
"It was a tough decision for an 18-year-old to go the NBA," John Outlaw, Travis' father, told the Starkville Daily News. "You have to look at a lot of things but we're happy for Travis and proud of him."
Williams will not return to the Tide for his junior season, Alabama assistant coach Phillip Pearson said. Williams doesn't have a guarantee that he will be in the first round, but didn't want to return to school. Williams worked out for New Jersey on Thursday and has a workout scheduled in Los Angeles on Friday.
Williams, who was projected as a top point guard in next year's draft, is more than likely a second-round pick in this year's draft. Williams averaged 16.4 points a game and 3.9 assists a game. The 6-1 Williams is the fourth straight underclassmen to leave Alabama beginning with Schea Cotton (2000), Gerald Wallace (2001) and Rod Grizzard (2002).
Nelson, meanwhile, averaged 19.7 points and 4.7 assists a game as a junior while leading SJU to its third straight Atlantic 10 regular-season title and a second NCAA Tournament at-large bid in three years. Nelson finished the 2002-03 season with 591 points -- the fifth-highest single season total in school history -- and was an Associated Press honorable mention All-America selection.
Nelson was impressive earlier this month at the NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago. He was invited to the camp under a new NCAA regulation that allows underclassmen to be evaluated while retaining collegiate eligibility, provided they do not sign with an agent.
"Professional basketball is still how I want to earn a living and support my family," said Nelson. "The last few weeks have convinced me that will happen. I am grateful to the NBA for giving me that chance, and to everyone at Saint Joseph's and beyond who has supported me."
"The decision hasn't been easy," Nelson added, "but the process has been very valuable. My focus now is to keep getting better and to have a great senior year."
Nelson, who already owns the top two single season assist totals in school history, ranks second on the all-time list with 543 assists. He trails only Rap Curry, who collected 580 assists from 1990-94. Nelson also ranks 17th on SJU's all-time scoring list with 1,435 points. He needs 551 points as a senior to surpass Bernard Blunt (1990-95) as the Hawks' all-time scoring leader and 565 points to become the first 2,000-point scorer in men's basketball at Saint Joseph's.
"I've said all along that Jameer is the best point guard in America, but he is an even better person," said Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli. "He cares so much about his school, his teammates and our program that no one should be surprised with this decision. He is coming back to school for all the right reasons, and his legacy will be like those left by Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Lionel Simmons, four-year guys with tremendous character.
"It isn't about being a first-round draft pick any more. It's about being a lottery pick next year and a candidate for national player of the year. Jameer will break every record that we have, he's a first-team All-American and he'll be revered as long as they play basketball at Saint Joseph's."
Sources said the 6-10 Villanueva couldn't get a guarantee that he would be a first-round pick. Villanueva and his summer league coach, Gary Charles of the Long Island Panthers, telephoned the Huskies staff Thursday afternoon with the news. Villanueva committed to Connecticut but didn't sign a national letter of intent. He originally committed, but never signed, with Illinois in November but dropped his commitment once Illinois coach Bill Self left for Kansas.
The McDonald's all-American averaged 21 points and 14 rebounds for Blair Academy, teamming up with Duke-bound guard Luol Deng. Villanueva joins a Huskies' team that is ESPN.com's preseason No. 1. He will compete with sophomore Hilton Armstrong and freshman Josh Boone for a starting assignment next to junior Emeka Okafor.
Michigan State forward Erazem Lorbek decided to withdraw from the draft, but won't return to the Spartains -- choosing instead to
play in Europe rather than return to school because he signed with an agent.
"He wanted to wait for a better moment," his father, Radovan Lorbek, told the Detroit Free Press.
Radovan Lorbek said his son will play professionally in Europe this year and will re-enter the NBA draft next year.
The 6-foot-10 forward from Slovenia averaged 6.4 points per game during the regular season, but led Michigan State in scoring and
rebounding during the NCAA tournament with 12 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.
"It was smart to withdraw because he would have been a second-round pick, and I don't think that's what he wanted or
needed," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "It's just sad for me, because both parties lose out. Another year would have done him
good, but I'm pulling for him."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information for this report was obtained by the Associated Press.
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