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Originally published November 18, 2009 at 6:38 PM | Page modified November 19, 2009 at 12:01 AM

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UW Men's Hoops | Adrian Oliver gets one more game at Hec Ed

Highly recruited guard left Washington two years ago, will return as starter for San Jose State.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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They were supposed to carry Washington to the Final Four and beyond.

After one disappointing season, however, everything began to unravel.

First Spencer Hawes declared for the NBA draft and then Phil Nelson transferred to Portland State in the spring of 2007, breaking up perhaps the most heralded recruiting class in the history of the Huskies men's basketball team.

Adrian Oliver didn't want to go, but several months later he transferred to San Jose State, leaving behind Quincy Pondexter as the only member of the Class of 2006 that was rated No. 6 in the country by Scout.com.

"I had some family issues back home that were on my mind a lot," Oliver said Wednesday. "It was constantly on my mind while I was playing. Should I be here right now or with my family back at home?

"It was a hard decision to make because I chose Washington for a reason, but it was an easy decision at the same time because my family had to come first," Oliver said.

Oliver, a 6-4 junior guard, makes his first and most likely only return to Washington on Friday when the 14th-ranked Huskies (3-0) face the Spartans (1-0) at Edmundson Pavilion.

Sunday, UW ruined Nelson's homecoming and handed Portland State a 111-55 shellacking, which was the team's fifth-most lopsided victory in modern history.

Oliver studied video of the Vikings games and saw what the Huskies did to Nelson. He also knows he'll have to manage his emotions and doesn't expect a warm welcome from Huskies fans.

"I'm just taking it as another game," Oliver said. "I know I went there. I know I've had history there, but it's kind of bittersweet because I still have a lot of love for the guys and coach [Lorenzo] Romar.

"When I watch them on TV, I pull for them. But now I'm here and now I'm going to be on the opposite side of coach Romar. It's not a game where I feel I have something to prove or I'm playing for revenge. It's just a game that I'm going to go out and play hard."

Truth be told, Friday's game is more than just another game.

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Oliver's return brings memories of a class that promised so much, but fell apart after a 19-13 season in which the Huskies failed to qualify for a postseason tournament.

"We all had a lot of talent, and we were really hyped, and so we wanted to live up to those expectations right away," Pondexter said. "Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way."

Oliver was one of five players to play in all 32 games and he averaged 4.7 points as a freshman.

Five games into the 2007-08 season when he was averaging 3.4 points and 11.2 minutes, Oliver chose to transfer.

He declined to go into details about the family problems that drove him closer to his home in Modesto, Calif.

"Adrian has been the man all of his life and he should have been," Romar said. "He's really good. And in our situation it wasn't happening overnight.

"There also was some use it for an excuse but in his case when things didn't happen as quickly as he would have liked he became more and more homesick."

Oliver enrolled at San Jose State in the spring of 2008 and became eligible Dec. 20, 2008.

He scored 27, 31 and 22 points in his first three games before straining a knee.

He played through the injury for several weeks before scoring 37 points against Boise State with Romar in the stands. Oliver tore ligaments in his foot that night and missed the next three games.

Despite the injuries, he led the Spartans with a 17.1 scoring average last season.

In San Jose State's opener this season, an 89-63 win over William Jessup, Oliver finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

"I'm very happy here," he said. "I feel like I made the right decision. I don't regret it one bit."

Oliver stays in contact with Romar and Pondexter, but rarely does he think about what might have been at Washington.

"Some things just don't work out the way people think they should," Oliver said.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

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