Earl Jones, the University of the District of Columbia's all-America 7-foot center, said yesterday he definitely will return to play his senior year rather than declare hardship and join the upcoming National Basketball Association draft.
Georgetown University, in a tongue-in-cheek statement, indicated that its 7-foot center, Patrick Ewing, will be back for his junior year, as previously reported.
Another 7-foot underclassman, Akeem Olajuwon, has said he will return to Houston for his senior year.
Jones said his decision was based on the fact he wishes to play in the Pan American and Olympic games.
"The money will be there when I finish school," said Jones, who has led the Firebirds to a 54-8 record and the NCAA Division II national championship in 1982 and its runner-up spot last season. "I don't know what the (NBA) teams think of me, but I've played with or against the top big people in the nation and I feel I'm in the top five.
"But playing in the Olympics has always been one of my biggest goals. Many of the players who played in the Games were either first-round draft picks or went on to be very successful in some field. Since the Games are in Los Angeles, that means a lot of exposure."
Jones said he doesn't expect an NBA team to come running with a last-second, $1 million offer.
"Even if that happened, I would still stay," he said. "I don't feel I have anything to prove to anyone, but I want to be the most versatile big man in the nation next year."
Jones, who has gained 20 pounds and now weighs 215, has recovered from a sore lower back and scratched cornea suffered in the latter part of the season and has started training for the Pan American trials in Colorado Springs in two weeks.
Coach Wil Jones, obviously elated over the decision, said he discussed all the ramifications of turning hardship but insisted the center make up his own mind.
"His decision is not just about money, and Earl needs money just like the rest of us," Wil Jones said. "Earl is not swayed by outside pressures and asks questions only of the people he trusts the most: his mother, Doc (Robinson, assistant coach) and myself.
"Earl knows we would never stand in his way if he wanted to leave," Jones said. "One thing a coach can't teach is experience and another year (in college) would make him that much more a tremendous player. Earl has matured a great deal. He went from a silent, quiet type of person to a leader, a person who is concerned about others and knows what he represents here and to other predominantly black institutions in this country."
Olajuwon said he will remain at Houston because "my parents want me to stay and they were the main part in my decision. I talked to them every day."
Olajuwon, who some feel is the best center in the nation, had been considering leaving school after Houston lost the NCAA championship game. He has expressed a desire to continue living in Houston, and with the Houston Rockets of the NBA holding two of the first three draft picks, would have had a 67 percent chance of remaining in the city.
According to several knowledgeable sports attorneys, he would earn about $500,000 for his first season if he turned pro. Sources close to the situation said Olajuwon still was confused. But he told The Houston Post, "I'm gonna stay in school. I'm positive about that. I think I need another year to prepare myself."
All-America teammate Clyde Drexler said he still was uncertain. Drexler, a 6-6 junior forward, plans to announce his intentions today at a press conference. Drexler said he encouraged Olajuwon, from Nigeria, to stay in school.
NBA scouts are much higher on Keith Lee than Drexler. Lee, the 6-10 center/forward from Memphis State, would be the second player drafted--behind Virginia's Ralph Sampson--if he decides to forego his last two years of eligibility.
One player who said yesterday he will enter his name in the draft was Ennis Whatley, 6-3 sophomore playmaking guard from Alabama who averaged 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds a game last season.
Whatley denied reports he was leaving because of personal conflicts with Coach Wimp Sanderson.
Sources also indicated that North Carolina junior Sam Perkins and sophomore teammate Michael Jordan will be returning to school.
Two players in the Big Ten, 6-10 Russell Cross of Purdue and 6-3 guard Dereck Harper of Illinois, have said they will enter their names in the draft. But Harper since has said he is having second thoughts.
Here is the release from Georgetown Coach John Thompson that speaks indirectly about Ewing.
"On Friday, May 13, at noon, Steve Wolf (the Hoyas' manager) will announce his intentions as to whether he will stay in Georgetown University for the '83-'84 basketball season or opt to go to the NBA. In order to handle the large crowds anticipated for this event, Healy Circle on the main campus will be the site of the conference.
"Due to the fact that Georgetown University is presently in exams, the NBA did not express an interest in Steve and I did not give my consent for managers to speak with the press. I will not take part in this announcement for Steve Wolf; however, we wish him luck, send our prayers and hope he gets a job after the draft. John Thompson
"Due to the fact that officiating of the post play in the college ranks has improved, no other announcement will be made by this basketball office this week about the NBA."