After considering lucrative professional basketball contract offers, Maryland's Albert King and Virginia's Ralph Sampson have decided to remain in school.
King, an all-American foward as a junior last season, had been considering a multiyear contract offer from the Chicago Bulls. But yesterday, he called Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell in his office at approximately 4:30 p.m. and said he had decided to stay at College Park for his senior season.
Several hours earlier, King called his "unofficial" agent, Sonny Vaccaro, in Las Vegas and informed him of his decision to stay in school.
Sampson, Virginia's 7-foot-4 freshman center, told Harry Mangurian, Celtic owner, and Red Auerbach, team president, on Wednesday that he would remain in Charlottesville, turning down an offer reportedly higher than the $650,000 the club paid rookie Larry Bird in 1980.
"He's not coming. He more or less told us he was going to stay in school." Mangurian said in yesterday's editions of the Boston Globe. ". . . We made him a very, very fine offer, but he really didn't seem interested. I then asked him what amount would make him interested . . . He said that there was no figure that could get him to change."
Money was not the main consideration for King, either. "I just didn't feel I was really mentally or physically," King said last night in his dormitory room. "It was a tough decision. I had to do a lot of thinking. In the end, I just felt the best thing for me right now was to play college ball for another year."
King said he consulted with a number of people while weighing his decision, most notably his parents. "They were very supportive. They told me that whatever I did they would be happy with. I think I would have been happy if I had left but I know I'll be happy staying."
King did not discuss the situation with any of his teammates in the past few days. "He kept his thoughts to himself," Buck Williams said. "And none of us asked him about it."
King said that turning down the kind of money being offered by the Bulls was not too difficult. "I haven't had a lot of money for 20 years," he said. "Not having it a little bit longer won't bother me. Hopefully a year from now I will have it."
King, two semesters away from graduation, said a college degree has become more important to him with each passing year.
"I'm glad it's over," he said. "I've made my decision and I'm not going to look back at it at all."
Vaccaro, reached in Las Vegas yesterday, said King "had thought about it (the Bulls' offer) all night and all morning. He said he went out today, took a walk, came back and decided to stay.
"I can't really tell you any one reason why he wanted to stay," Vaccaro continued. "I think there are still some things he wants to achieve at Maryland. And I think right now he's very happy there."
"Albert called and I asked him if he'd made a decision yet," Driesell said. "He told me, 'Yeah, I'm not going anywhere.'"
"I'm excited that he's coming back," Driesell said. "I think he just wanted to find out what he was worth and how much interest there was in him.
"I think he wanted to come back to try and win the ACC tournament and to win a national championship. I think he knew that his teammates and coaches wanted to see him come back. It shows what kind of a person he is.If he had been selfish, he would have left."
King apparently rejected a five-year contract offer made Wednesday by the Bulls that would have been worth approximately $1.3 million. NBA sources said earlier this week that it would probably take a five-year contract closer to $2 million to get King to forgo his final year of college eligibility.
According to informed sources, Chicago General Manager Rod Thorn and Vaccaro talked Wednesday. After considering his options, the 6-foot-6 junior decided to let today's noon deadline pass without declaring himself eligible for the June 10 draft.
There were no face-to-face meetings between the Bulls and King, partly because the Bulls, with the fourth pick in the draft, could not assure King they would be able to draft him. The Celtics, with the first pick, had told Sampson they would select him.
King averaged 22 points and seven rebounds a game this season and was named ACC player of the year and a first team all-America after the Terps finished the season 24-7, ranked eighth in the nation. His outstanding play this year, after two relatively ordinary seasons, caught the eye of pro scouts. King has been considered one of the game's top prospects since his sophomore year at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Immediately following the past season, King said he was "almost certain," he would return to Maryland. But during the next few weeks he was surprised by the amount of interest shown in him by NBA teams and began to reconsider.
Last week, King reflected on some of his mixed emotions about the situation. "You have to be intrigued when people are talking about that kind of money," he said. "But the way I look at it you only go to college once. Four years isn't that long a time and it isn't something you can go back to, really, once you leave."
Sampson, meanwhile, met with Mangurian and Auerbach Wednesday at Sampson's home in Harrisonburg, Va. In spite of the Celtics' offer of a contract worth more than the $650,000 paid to Larry Bird last year (the offer was believed to be about $750,000), Sampson remained firm in his commitment to return to Virginia, according to Mangurian.