Roberts, Robinson, Bass returning to school
Lawrence Roberts, the Southeastern Conference's player of the year last season, announced Thursday that he's withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and is returning to Mississippi State for his senior year.
That would leave open the possibility that he could play college ball for the Razorbacks.
Ceroy Jefferson, Al Jefferson's uncle, told AP that his nephew was "right in the thick of things" in draft projections, but would wait until after the June 24 draft to make a final decision.
"We are encouraged by the fact that he still has a lot of interest in the Razorbacks," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said earlier Thursday, before Ceroy Jefferson said his nephew would keep his options open.
Jefferson was Heath's top signee for Arkansas during the early signing period. Jefferson averaged 42.6 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks during his senior season at Prentiss. He is the third Mississippi high school player to attempt to go from the preps to the pros, joining Jonathan Bender of Picayune in 1999 and Travis Outlaw of Starkville last year.
Wright, who played at South Kent Prep (Conn.) last season, is a borderline first-round pick but would have been one of the top newcomers in the country and a candidate for Conference USA freshman of the year honors.
"Too many unanswered questions," Roberts said during an appearance on ESPNews. "Anytime you have a situation like that, the best remedy is to answer the questions people have in their heads. That's going back to school ... and proving I'm a higher pick than people might think."
The 6-foot-9 power forward led the Bulldogs to their first outright SEC regular-season title in 41 years while becoming an All-American and being named the conference's top player.
He previously announced his eligibility for the June 24 NBA draft, saying he wanted to be among the first 20 players taken, and participated in the league's pre-draft camp in Chicago last week.
Roberts transferred to Mississippi State last year after playing his first two years at Baylor. He left Baylor after the death of Patrick Dennehy and the ensuing scandal involving former Bears coach Dave Bliss.
Roberts averaged 17.1 points and 10.2 rebounds for the Bulldogs last season. He said his decision came down to nearly the final minute. He had until 5 p.m. ET to withdraw from the draft pool.
"I was just trying to weigh every option," he told ESPNews. "This is the biggest decision of my life. I just wanted to take it as seriously as possible and know the options that I have -- take as much time as I can."
Also deciding Thursday to return to school:
"I'm going to take Husky basketball back to where it needs to be, back to a winning program like we did last year, and even better," Robinson said at a campus news conference. "Getting the Pac-10 championship, going to the big dance again, and trying to win a national championship."
NBA scouts projected Robinson as an early to middle second-round draft pick. Robinson said he hopes to use an additional college season to improve his status and move into the first round.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar welcomed the decision but said he would have supported Robinson either way.
Robinson's stock soared at this month's NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago, where he dazzled NBA scouts and executives with the speed, quickness and tenacity that Washington fans have come to appreciate. Robinson also had a 90-minute visit with Jameer Nelson, the 5-11 point guard from Saint Joseph's who decided to return to school and became national player of the year last season.
"He said it was hard knowing you're good enough and better than most of these guys, but teams won't guarantee you'll be picked in the first round or picked at all," Robinson recalled. "Him being the player of the year, being 5-11, a short guy who's a guaranteed first-rounder now, that influenced me."
"I'm extremely excited and pleased that Brandon Bass will return to LSU and be a part of our basketball team next year," LSU coach John Brady said in announcing Bass' decision. "Obviously, returning to our team and coming off the freshman year that he had means a great deal to our program."
Bass, the SEC's freshman of the year, started all 29 games for the Tigers last season and averaged 12.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.9 blocked shots a game. He shot 50.4 percent from the field and 78.3 percent from the free-throw line. He will be the Tigers' top returning scorer and rebounder in 2004-05.
After announcing that he would be available for the draft, Bass shopped his talents around. He took part in the NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago last week, then Bass worked out for the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, the Indianapolis Pacers on Wednesday and the San Antonio Spurs Thursday.
"I learned what I need to improve on and I got a feel for what my strengths are. It was a tough decision, but I feel good about it," Bass said in a statement released by LSU.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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