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Thursday, April 20, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Cal's Powe opts for NBA draft

OAKLAND, Calif. — Leon Powe received positive news about his surgically repaired left knee, and that was exactly what California's star forward needed to finally make a decision about his future.

Powe declared for the NBA draft Wednesday but does not plan to sign with an agent immediately, giving him the option to return to the Golden Bears for his junior season.

"My family and I thought this was the best decision right now, to make myself eligible for the draft without hiring an agent," Powe said in a statement released by the school. "I want to leave all of my options open."

Powe — a local standout from Oakland Tech High School who overcame a challenging childhood — announced the decision a day after he was examined in Colorado by Dr. Richard Steadman, the renowned orthopedist who performed operations on Powe's knee two years ago. Powe is projected as a late first-round pick or early second-round selection. Powe has hinted he would turn pro if he was expected to be a first-round choice.

Declaring for the NBA gives Powe the chance to work out for teams to get a better idea of where he would go in the June 28 draft. He can maintain his college eligibility by not hiring an agent and has until June 18 to withdraw and go back to school.

Powe was in the gym working out Wednesday afternoon, only hours after announcing his decision. Scouts like his strength and size.

And hearing that his left knee is now as strong or stronger than the right one may only boost his draft position.

The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Powe led Cal to its first NCAA tournament bid in three years last season, but the Bears lost in the first round to North Carolina State.

He earned second-team All-America honors after averaging Pac-10 bests of 20.5 points and 10.1 rebounds.

Notes

Seimone Augustus, who led LSU to the Final Four for the third straight season, has won the Honda Award as the nation's top female player for the second consecutive year. Augustus, the first pick in the WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx, signed with the team Wednesday.

Felisha Legette-Jack, a former Syracuse star who spent the last four years as the women's coach at Hofstra, was introduced as Indiana's coach. She was 54-63 at Hofstra, including 19-12 last season. She will be Indiana's third coach in three seasons. Legette-Jack, 39, signed a five-year contract that pays her at least $200,000 a year.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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