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April 19, 2006

Powe to the Pro's

BERKELEY, Calif. -- California star forward Leon Powe declared for the NBA draft on Wednesday but does not plan to sign with an agent immediately, giving him the option to return to the Golden Bears for his junior season.

"My family and I thought this was the best decision right now, to make myself eligible for the draft without hiring an agent," Powe said in a statement released by the school. "I want to leave all of my options open."

Powe announced the decision a day after he was examined by a doctor to determine the health of his surgically repaired left knee. He is projected as a late first-round pick or early second-round selection.

Declaring for the NBA gives Powe the chance to work out for teams to get a better idea of where he would go in the June 28 draft. He can maintain his college eligibility by not hiring an agent and has until June 18 to withdraw and go back to school.

The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Powe 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.

"Leon and I have talked a lot about his future and his options," coach Ben Braun said. "He knows he has my full support. I'm proud that he has put himself in a great position both athletically and academically. He just had the best season of his basketball career, which is a credit to his work ethic and perseverance."

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. He said he plans on getting his degree no matter what he decides with the draft.

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