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Archive for Saturday, May 4, 2002

Juniors will return to KU for senior season

May 4, 2002

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Kansas University basketball standouts Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison have put their NBA dreams on hold.

The Iowa juniors both announced intentions to stay in school on Friday  two weeks after junior Drew Gooden revealed his plans to turn pro with one year of eligibility remaining.

"I looked at all my options and then made the decision that I definitely want to stay at the University of Kansas," said the 6-foot-9 Collison, who averaged 15.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season.

He and Hinrich were both told by KU coach Roy Williams they'd be selected somewhere in the first round, but likely in the 15- to 29-pick range, not the lottery, where Gooden will be nabbed.

Williams has spent the past month gathering draft information on his players from NBA scouts.

"When I do go to the NBA, I want to be as good a player as possible, and I think I can get a lot better with another year under coach Williams," Collison said. "I think that fact, in addition to the fact that I could come back and have a lot of fun next year at KU made my decision a little easier. This is a great place to be, and it would be hard to give up another year in Lawrence."

Hinrich feels the same way.

"After thinking about all the information that coach Williams gave me, I decided to return to Kansas for my senior year," said the 6-foot-3 guard, who averaged 14.8 points, 5.0 assists and 4.8 boards for the 33-4 Jayhawks. "I decided that I wanted an opportunity to finish the season on a better note than we did this year, and to better myself as a player under coach Williams' guidance.

"I think the idea of coming back was also very attractive since I would have the opportunity to just be a kid again for another year and enjoy all the great moments which come with being a Kansas basketball player."

Williams explained the decision-making process.

"After my conversations with the NBA evaluation committee, I learned that both Nick and Kirk would have been first-round draft choices," Williams said. "I then gave all the information to them. I gave them some advice. We got some counsel from their families, and both decided that the option they wanted to take was to come back and play at Kansas.

"We're very happy, to say the least, that they are coming back, but at the same time we would have been very happy for them if they would have made the decision to go.

"Needless to say, this helps our basketball team and the prospects for next year, but I think that everyone would have understood if they had gone it would have been a good decision for them to make."

That's because the last pick in the first round is guaranteed $2,072,700 over three years.

"We're pleased. We would have been happy either way," Collison's dad, Dave, said of the decision. "The way it was explained is they (NBA personnel) were thinking he'd go in the first round, but probably 15 to 29. At that point, it's kind of a guess. There's still time for others to declare for the draft (until May 12) and you never know who might go. Throw in some more foreign players, it could be a little bit of a gamble. I don't think he was ever planning on going."

Collison and Hinrich, in fact, have said all along they expected to return.

"We visited on the phone a bit about it," Dave Collison said. "Knowing he would go in the first round made him think about it a little bit. He talked like, 'Well if I could go in the first round and be guaranteed a three-year contract' ...

"The only concern in staying is risk of injury. I guess I told him you shouldn't make a decision on the fact you could get injured. It could happen or may not happen."

Collison and Hinrich will be protected by insurance policies paid for by the NCAA.

"It's nice to know he'll have something like that. I can't remember too many guys who have had career-ending injuries that affected them getting drafted," Dave Collison said.

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