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June 16, 2008

Abrams, Steele among those returning to school

North Carolina underclassmen Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green will return to Chapel Hill next season after removing their names from the NBA draft Monday.

The school's announcement came less than an hour before the deadline for underclassmen who had not hired agents to withdraw from the draft.

It means the Tar Heels figure to enter next year as prohibitive favorites to reach the Final Four. North Carolina will return its top six players while also adding one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

All three players had participated in the predraft camp in Orlando before working out for individual teams in recent weeks. Coach Roy Williams said the three gained "valuable information," but said the timing for a leap to the NBA "was just not exactly right at this point."

Other big-name players withdrawing Monday were Texas guard A.J. Abrams ; Robert Dozier of Memphis; Jeremy Pargo of Gonzaga; and UAB guard Robert Vaden.

UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, DeAndre Jordan of Texas A&M, California's Ryan Anderson and Alabama's Richard Hendrix will enter the NBA draft.

Abrams, Texas' career leader in 3-pointers with 284, surprised many when he joined point guard D.J. Augustin in submitting his name for this summer's draft. But Abrams never signed with an agent, allowing him to return to the Longhorns.

Next season, Texas will return four starters from a team that went 31-7, won a share of the Big 12 regular season championship and advanced to the advanced NCAA tournament regional final in Houston.

Dozier had been testing his draft status, and said in a statement Monday that he loved the process. But he joins teammate Antonio Anderson in pulling his name from draft consideration to return to a team that went 38-2 last season and lost the national title game.

With Anderson and Chance McGrady, Dozier could be a part of the winningest four-year class in Division I history. The record for most wins in four years is 133 by Duke between 1998 and 2001. Dozier's class goes into next season with 104 wins.

Gonzaga's Pargo, the West Coast Conference player of the year, worked out for six different NBA teams in recent weeks. He had said he would skip his senior year only if he was to be a first-round draft pick.

He averaged 12 points and six assists last season. Pargo's older brother Jannero plays for the New Orleans Hornets.

Vaden is returning for his senior season after being told he had been projected as a likely second-round pick.

"I told myself going into the process that was something I wasn't going to settle for," the high-scoring 6-foot-5 guard said. "I think I'm better than the second round."

Vaden set the Conference USA record for 3-pointers in a season and set school marks for single-season points along with 3s attempted and made. He averaged 21.1 points as a junior.

UCLA coach Ben Howland said Mbah a Moute will hire an agent and forgo his senior season with the Bruins. The 6-foot-8 forward from Cameroon became the first player to start in three consecutive Final Fours since 1999-01. He averaged 10.3 rebounds in the NCAA tournament, and had 12 points and 13 rebounds in UCLA's national semifinal loss to Memphis.

"After speaking to my family and going through the process, I feel like the time is right for me to take the next step in my basketball career and keep my name in the NBA draft," Mbah a Moute said in a statement.

Jordan, a 7-foot freshman center, told Aggies coach Mark Turgeon he would remain in the NBA draft with hopes of becoming the third Aggie taken in the first round since 2005.

Jordan averaged 7.9 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds last season. The Aggies lost to UCLA in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Texas A&M's Acie Law was taken 11th by Atlanta last year, and Antoine Wright went 15th to New Jersey in 2005.

Anderson, who led the Pac-10 in scoring last season, declared for the draft in April but kept his options open by not signing with an agent. But after spending the past few weeks working out for NBA teams, Anderson decided to take a chance.

The 6-foot-10 Anderson was an all-Pac-10 selection this season, leading the conference in scoring at 21.1 points per game and ranking third in rebounding at 9.9.

His 1,236 points are the most by any Cal player after his sophomore year and the 16th most in school history.

Anderson is considered to be a borderline first-round pick.

Hendrix, was the Crimson Tide's leading scorer and rebounder last season.

Teammate Ronald Steele will remain at Alabama for his senior season.

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