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De'Anthony Melton announces he's withdrawing from USC

Former Encino Crespi guard De'Anthony Melton announced Wednesday that he would withdraw from USC and focus on preparing for a professional basketball career.

Melton has not played this season because a close family friend was linked to the ongoing college basketball bribery scandal. USC announced in January that Melton would have to sit out his entire sophomore season. Melton has never been publicly accused of any wrongdoing.

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"After much thought and consideration, we, as a family, have made the difficult decision for me to withdraw from school," he said in a statement on Twitter. "It has truly been an honor to be a member of the Trojan family for the past two years."

Melton's coach at Crespi, Russell White, said, "At this point, I'm very comfortable with him making this decision and moving forward with his professional aspirations. This is the right move at the right time."

Melton could be a first-round NBA draft pick. He's known for his versatility, strong defense and all-out work ethic. He led Crespi to a state championship in his senior season.

He averaged 8.3 points, 3.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds a game for USC as a freshman.

USC held out Melton as a precaution while investigating ties to a scandal that resulted in the indictment of former Trojans associate head coach Tony Bland, who has been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud.

Federal prosecutors alleged that David Elliott, a close family friend of Melton's, received a $5,000 bribe in August to direct the player to use a would-be agent.

Elliott's attorney denied his client accepted any money.

USC decided it did not want to risk possible forfeits if Melton played and the NCAA ruled extra benefits had been given in violation of NCAA rules.

"I have reached a crossroads wherein I have decided to focus on honing my strengths and improving upon my weaknesses for competition at the next level," Melton said.

Melton's attorney, Vicki I. Podberesky, said in a statement: "I feel sad for DeAnthony and his family and dismayed and angry with a college athletic system that is clearly broken and not designed to look after the best interests of the student-athlete. This is not a condemnation of USC or the decisions it made but rather a criticism of the rules and regulations of the NCAA.

"Someone needs to take a realistic and critical look at the role of the NCAA and its purpose. There is nothing about this entire situation with DeAnthony Melton which, in my mind, demonstrates any consideration for the well being of a student-athlete or for the integrity amateurism. The system has failed this young man."

White said Melton will train full time and focus on nutrition and preparation in case, as expected, he makes himself available for the 2018 draft.

"He'll work out at Crespi," White said. "We have his back 100%."

Times staff writer Nathan Fenno contributed to this report.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: @latsondheimer

UPDATES:

12:28 p.m.: Story updates througout.

3:47 p.m: Story is updated to include statement from Melton's attorney.

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