By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Georgetown officially said goodbye to junior forward Jeff Green yesterday while Virginia and George Washington welcomed back Sean Singletary and Maureece Rice, respectively, as the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA draft passed.
Green, the Big East player of the year, will forgo his senior season and likely will be among the first 12 players picked in the draft, which will be held on June 28 in Madison Square Garden. Singletary, a two-time all-ACC pick, and Rice, the most outstanding player at the Atlantic 10 tournament, withdrew their names before the 5 p.m. deadline and will return for their senior seasons.
Green and teammate Roy Hibbert were among the 58 collegiate players who submitted their names for the draft in late April. Georgetown held a news conference on May 23 during which Hibbert announced that he was returning to school and Green said that he was going to keep his name in the draft. But Green left open a slight possibility of returning to the Hoyas, and he reiterated that sentiment over the next few weeks as he worked out for various NBA teams.
"It was a difficult decision on many levels," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "He likes Georgetown, he likes his friends at Georgetown, and I don't want to speak for him, but I think he likes everything about Georgetown. To that end, it was a difficult decision."
Green declined to comment for this story, but his mother, Felicia Akingube, said that the positive feedback that he received from the NBA helped sway his decision. He has yet to hire an agent, though he is "really, really close" to doing so, his mother said. Green will continue to work out for teams before the draft.
The versatile 6-foot-9 Green, an All-Met from Northwestern, is projected to be a lottery pick, and some mock drafts have him going as high as the fifth pick. He led the Hoyas in scoring (14.3 points) and was second in both rebounds (6.4) and assists (3.2).
"There's no doubt about it in my head that as a player, he's ready," Thompson said. "I think he'll be very successful."
If Green had returned to school, the Hoyas -- who are coming off of a 30-win season and Final Four appearance -- likely would have been the preseason number one team in the country. Without him, the Hoyas should still be highly ranked; eight of their top nine players return, and they added two of the top high school guards in the country: All-Met player of the year Austin Freeman (DeMatha) and three-time All-Met Chris Wright (St. John's).
"I think we have the pieces in place, not necessarily to replace him, but we will be able to adjust, tweak and adapt with guys who are ready to step up and fill in the holes," said Thompson, whose team swept the Big East regular season and tournament titles. "In college athletics today, I think there will always be attrition in one form or another; that's the state of the game today. It's something that you try to prepare for. Our team is in a position to move forward."
Virginia and George Washington can move forward knowing that their leading scorers will return for one more season. Neither Singletary nor Rice was projected to be a first-round pick, though Singletary had the potential to be selected in the second round.
The 6-0 Singletary led the Cavaliers in scoring (19.0), assists (4.7) and steals (1.2) and helped lead Virginia to its first 20-win season and NCAA tournament appearance since 2001. He said throughout the season that he intended to return for his senior year, but he declared for the draft to get some feedback on his game. He participated in the pre-draft camp in Orlando and worked out for several NBA teams, including his hometown Philadelphia 76ers.
"I believe this decision is the best one for me," Singletary said in a statement released by the athletic department. "The process I went through the last two months was extremely valuable and provided me with a significant amount of information. . . . Regardless of the decision I made, I felt there would be many positives for me."
Rice's return is good news for the Colonials, who have to replace senior starters Carl Elliott, Regis Koundjia and Dokun Akingbade from last season's Atlantic 10 tournament champion team. Rice averaged 15.8 points and helped lead George Washington to its third straight NCAA tournament.
"I think it's great he's coming back," Coach Karl Hobbs said. "It's the right thing for him to do. He has the right perspective on this thing. He didn't have any false hopes about this."
The 6-1 Rice was not projected to be a major factor in the draft, though he entered his name as a way to accurately gauge interest from teams. It's a practice that Hobbs said he encourages for players interested in the NBA.
"He had a game plan," Hobbs said. "He wanted to get his name out there and let folks know that he thought he could play at that level. We felt that was what he needed to do to get that message out there. He knew exactly what he was thinking."
Staff writer Marc Carig contributed to this report.
For the complete list of early entry candidates for the 2007 NBA draft, see E8.