EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., FEB. 13 -- Sophomore reserve guard Marco Lokar, an Italian native, quit the Seton Hall basketball team and withdrew from the university today, saying he and his wife received threats after he refused to wear the American flag on his uniform to show support for troops in the Persian Gulf.

Lokar said in a statement that he and his wife planned to return to his home in Trieste, Italy, so she could complete her pregnancy in "peace and tranquility."

In his statement, the 6-foot-1 Lokar defended his decision not to wear the flag, which 12 other members of the team decided to wear in mid-January. Lokar said it would have shown support for war, something he said he cannot do as a Christian.

"The consequences of my decision have been quite surprising to me," Lokar said in the statement released by the university. "I have received many threats directed both at me and my wife, Lara, so that our life has become very difficult here.

"In order to complete her pregnancy in tranquility and peace {which is more important than anything else to us} we have decided to return to our home town, Trieste."

Lokar ended his statement with the phrase, "Peace be with you" and signed his name.

Coach P.J. Carlesimo and Athletic Director Larry Keating expressed sorrow that the flag controversy prompted the sophomore guard to leave school, but said he would be welcome to return next year. The scholarship remains intact, they said.

"It's very disappointing and sad that the circumstances evolved and he has to go back," Carlesimo said. "It's sad that he can't stay here and do what he wants to do because of concerns for the child."

Lokar's refusal to wear the flag went unnoticed for four games, but became noted in a Jan. 29 game at Providence. After several stories appeared, Lokar was booed every time he touched the ball in a Feb. 2 game against St. John's.

His playing time has diminished this season as he shot 28 percent from the field, and 6-3 freshman guard Bryan Caver was playing more.

Lokar also has finances to consider; he could earn a substantial salary playing professionally in Italy.