Center Ralph Dalton announced yesterday that he has returned to Georgetown for graduate school and a fifth year with the basketball team, ending a complex, summer-long decision-making process for him.

And after a summer of equally complex rumors and speculation, Coach John Thompson indicated that Michael Graham will not return to the Hoyas basketball team. There had been reports that Graham, who left Georgetown last January for the University of the District of Columbia after experiencing academic difficulty, would be back with the Hoyas.

"As far as I'm concerned it was decided last (academic) year," Thompson said of Graham. "There's nothing new as far as I'm concerned. As I told someone the other day, the last announcement I made about him was the last one I intend to make."

Earlier this summer, UDC Coach Wil Jones said he did not know where Graham would be going to school. Graham has been unavailable for comment for weeks.

Of the two developments, Dalton's return has more significance for the Hoyas' hopes for the season.

"It took a long, long time," said Dalton, who has already received his undergraduate degree. "I tried to make sure I considered everything. I examined and re-examined and I finally came to the conclusion.

"The primary factor in my decision was that I can get my master's degree in business administration," he said. "I want to be successful in business and getting my MBA would definitely help. And I'm also honored to play another year for Georgetown."

Dalton's decision on returning to school was complicated by financial considerations. Since the death of his mother two years ago, Dalton has had to support himself with help from his younger sister. Dalton could have opted to take one of several promising job offers.

"It was far more complicated than just whether he was going to play basketball for Georgetown," Thompson said. "He was trying to see his way clear with personal things, how he would financially be able to survive. I'm glad things seemed to have worked out for Ralph."

Dalton's return probably means that Georgetown will be one of the top 10 teams in the country. Because Dalton was sidelined his freshman season with a knee injury, he is eligible for this fifth year.

Georgetown probably couldn't have signed a more valuable recruit for this season. Dalton, 6 feet 11, was Patrick Ewing's backup for three years and played an integral role for the Hoyas as they went to the Final Four the past two years.

"We've just recaptured a great deal of experience," Thompson said. "We lost two significant people in the front line in Billy Martin and Pat. Ralph's a stabilizing factor along the front line. And besides that, he's progressively gotten better since the knee injury."

Dalton, in fact, had to carry the Hoyas in the pivot during two postseason games (St. John's in the Big East tournament and Georgia Tech in the NCAA East regional final) when all-America Ewing was in serious foul trouble.

"He played some quality minutes for us last year," Thompson said.

Dalton, who is starting graduate school this week, said he didn't think he was making that big a sacrifice by passing up the immediate income of a job.

He said he told Thompson recently, "I think I can manage it; at this point, what difference does a year make?"