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April 22, 2008

Pendergraph decision to stay crucial for Sun Devils

Arizona State's Jeff Pendergraph said on Monday that he will not declare for the 2008 NBA Draft and instead focus his undivided attention on preparing for his upcoming senior season at the school.

"I am having as much fun as I have ever had in college, both on the court and in the classroom," said Pendergraph. "I thought about the situation a lot since the end of the season and have decided to put total focus into improving at Arizona State. We have unfinished business to take care of and have so much left to accomplish. I want to leave a legacy."

Following the Sun Devils' loss to Florida in the third round of the NIT on March 25, Pendergraph announced that he would strongly consider declaring for the draft, but do so without hiring an agent.

Players who declare by the April 27 deadline are allowed to attend the NBA pre-draft camp and work out for NBA teams at their own expense through June 16. By that date, unsigned players must decide whether they will remain eligible for the June 26 draft, or return to school.

In what is considered to be a very deep class, Pendergraph was widely projected to be a second-round selection. Only first-round picks receive guaranteed multi-year contracts.

"Jeff has thoughtfully collected information and trusted his own intuition to make this educated decision," said ASU head coach Herb Sendek in a statement released by the school. "With great excitement I join my coaching staff, players and the entire Sun Devil family anticipating Jeff's senior season. He will continue to be a fantastic player and a wonderful ambassador for our program."

Pendergraph spent the weekend in Southern California discussion his options with his mother and others close to him. He also met with Sendek and spoke with TNT basketball analyst and former NBA coach Doug Collins, a friend of Sendek's, about the process.

"After talking to people I kind of found out that 'testing the waters' isn't as consequence-free as it might seem," Pendergraph said. "There are things that can go wrong with it and problems that can arise from it and after hearing that I was like 'Wow, I don't think it's worth that.'

"If I was going to enter and go I feel like I would have to have the mentality like, 'I'm playing as if I know I can't come back,' but deep down I don't feel like that. I have my backup plan. But I know if I wanted to get drafted and go to the lengths that I need to get drafted, I'd have to play as though I didn't have a fallback plan. But my fallback plan is being a key player on a team that is returning pretty much everybody from a squad that won over 20 games. So I can only help myself by doing that, and by continuing to work hard on my game."

Pendegraph earned third-team all-conference status last season with averages of 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. His 59.3 percent from the field last season tied the 4th best mark in school history.

In 91 career games Pendergrah has scored 1,079 points (11.9 per game), good enough for 25th on the ASU career list. His 655 career rebounds is 11th on the career list. His 101 career blocks is 6th all-time at the school.

Pendergraph is one of only three Pac-10 frontcourt players who earned all-league honors and are expected to return in 2008-09, the others being Washington's Jon Brockman, a second-team selection and USC's Taj Gibson, a third-team selection. Cal's Ryan Anderson, a first-team selection, has declared but will not hire an agent and couple potentially withdraw at a later date.

With Pendergraph's decision, ASU is the only Pac-10 school to have two all-league members returning, the other player of course being James Harden, who earned first-team honors as a freshman with averages of 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and a league best 2.1 steals per game.

All told, ASU returns its top eight players from its late season rotation, and 94.6 percent of its scoring. As a result, the Sun Devils will have more continuity heading into next season than any team in the conference.

"I think that's huge," Pendergraph said. "It also made my decision easier. We have all our key players coming back. We have some good guys coming in. Everybody coming back will be older, wiser and better. I kind of think we're going to be like the Washington State of two years ago where they were coming off finishing at the bottom (of the Pac-10) and going from that to being a Sweet-16 caliber team."


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