Collison to return for senior season

Times Staff Writer

When Darren Collison was hearing he might be the No. 9 pick in the NBA draft, and as his father Dennis and mother June were hearing from NBA scouts and general managers that Collison almost certainly would be from a No. 15 pick to a No. 22 pick, Collison said he thought his decision was made.

“Up until last week,” Collison said, “I was ready to declare. I was totally confident of where my position was. It just happened this week after I really put more thought into it that I was 100% sure. I’m coming back.”

After three of UCLA’s starters from this year’s team announced they would be making themselves eligible for the NBA draft, Collison, a junior point guard and third-team All-American, said Saturday that he would return for his senior season at UCLA.

Collison, who averaged 14.5 points and shot 52.5% from three-point range, said he felt he could become better prepared for the professional grind by returning to school.


“I want to give myself the best possible chance to succeed at the next level,” Collison said. “I have unfinished business at UCLA. I want to complete my education and when I do enter the draft I don’t want to be just another prospect.”

Collison, 6 feet 1 and 167 pounds, said his decision to wait another year did not have anything to do with the number of highly regarded underclassman guards who have already declared for the draft.

Among those considered true point guards are freshmen Derrick Rose of Memphis, Eric Gordon of Indiana and Jerryd Bayless of Arizona, plus sophomores D.J. Augustin of Texas and Ty Lawson of North Carolina and junior Mario Chalmers of Kansas. Also, two local guards who played point guard and shooting guard this season -- UCLA sophomore Russell Westbrook and USC freshman O.J. Mayo -- have declared, and all are considered possible first-round picks.

“This is my decision,” Collison said. “It’s my personal circumstances. It had nothing to do with anybody else’s circumstances,” he said.

Bruins freshman center Kevin Love, Westbrook and junior forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute have declared for the draft while not immediately hiring agents.

The deadline for underclassmen to enter the draft is today at 9 p.m. UCLA Coach Ben Howland said the fifth starter from last year’s team, junior swingman Josh Shipp, is still considering his options.

“I think Josh is seriously considering it, putting his name in,” Howland said. “He is giving it real thought.”

Underclassmen who have declared early have until June 16 to change their mind and return to school if they don’t hire an agent.

Dennis Collison said his son expects that by making the decision to stay at UCLA, teammates Shipp, Alfred Aboya and Mbah a Moute might also decide to come back to UCLA. Aboya is considering whether to concentrate on graduate school next year and skip his final season of basketball eligibility. “I think Darren staying may open the floodgates a little bit for the other guys,” Dennis said.

UCLA’s incoming freshman class, which was ranked No. 1 in the country, includes three guards -- Jrue Holiday of North Hollywood Campbell Hall High, Malcolm Lee of Riverside J.W. North and Jerime Anderson of Anaheim Canyon.

And the 6-3 Westbrook’s NBA position will be point guard, so if he chose to return to UCLA, Howland, who juggled this season’s lineup with only Collison, Westbrook and Shipp as guards after Michael Roll was injured in December, might have a guard logjam next season.

“This is totally Darren’s decision,” Howland said. “Next year we’ll be able to force the tempo of the game. You do that with your defense. We’ll be able to create a lot of opportunities with our quickness and length.”