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April 5, 2006
OAKLAND, Calif. - California star Leon Powe is far from ready to make a decision about whether to return to the Golden Bears for his junior season or declare himself eligible for the NBA draft.
''It's 50-50,'' Powe said Tuesday night of his decision after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Oakland Athletics hosted the New York Yankees.
The 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward led Cal to its first NCAA tournament bid in three years this season, but the Bears lost in the first round to North Carolina State.
He earned second-team All-America honors after averaging Pac-10 bests of 20.5 points and 10.1 rebounds in his first season following a serious knee injury that sidelined him for all of the 2004-05 season.
''It's just a matter of what's best for me and my family,'' he said. ''If it's stay in school, I'll stay in school. I have no problem coming back to Cal.''
Powe, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and league rebounding leader in 2004, is 29 credits shy of a degree in social welfare, and his late mother always emphasized the importance of education. She also taught him never to quit.
He said he hasn't inquired about where he might go in the June 28 draft. Powe has until April 29 to decide whether to make himself eligible. If he does declare for the draft, he could maintain his college eligibility by not hiring an agent and would have until June 18 to withdraw from the draft.
Powe said coach Ben Braun has encouraged him ''to make my own decision, what's best for me.''
Bernard Ward, Powe's unofficial guardian and the older brother of his best friend, joined Powe at the game.
''It will be his decision and I will support him either way,'' Ward said.
Powe, who had a challenging upbringing in Oakland without a father and spent time in homeless shelters with his troubled mother, has also said he is committed to helping take care of his younger siblings and the hundreds of hard-off kids in his hometown.
''I'm not doing anything yet,'' he said of the tough decision ahead.