Akeem Olajuwon, the 7-foot center who led Houston into the NCAA basketball final, said yesterday he'll return to the University of Houston rather than turn pro and forego his junior year.

Olajuwon, who had been wavering all week, announced his decision just hours before the NBA's midnight Saturday deadline for undergraduates to notify the league of their intention to leave college.

"I'm definitely going to stay in school," he said after talking with his family in Lagos, Nigeria. "They want me to stay in school, so I decided to stay in school."

Last week, Memphis State's Keith Lee, Georgetown's Patrick Ewing and Earl Jones of the University of the District of Columbia, said they would stay in school another season.

Olajuwon said Houston Coach Guy Lewis was out of town and was not aware of his final decision.

"He thought I was going to go," Olajuwon said.

Houston teammate Clyde Drexler, a junior forward, announced Friday that he would turn pro.

Other undergraduates who have decided to turn pro so far are center Russell Cross of Purdue and guards Glenn (Doc) Rivers of Marquette, Ennis Whatley of Alabama, Byron Scott of Arizona State and Derek Harper of Illinois. Whatley is a sophomore; the others are juniors . . .

University of Oklahoma basketball player Bruce Lee died yesterday morning shortly after surgery to remove his tonsils, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The cause of death was not immediately known. Lee, 21, was a 6-foot-8, 220-pound junior forward who saw limited action last season when the team finished 24-9 and went to the second round of the NCAA playoffs.

OU Coach Billy Tubbs said he was notified about 10 a.m. that Lee was having "breathing difficulties" in recovering from the normally routine surgery.

"I received a call this morning that Bruce was having complications. We arrived hoping for the best, but when we got there, we learned the worst."