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Big change: University says Ralph Sampson III will stay in school

  • Blog Post by: Amelia Rayno
  • May 9, 2011 - 4:23 PM

It looks like Ralph Sampson III has had a change of heart.

Athletic director Joel Maturi said he expects the 6-11 junior center to play for the Gophers next season, just days after many seemed convinced that he would keep his name in the NBA draft.

"I expect Ralph to be here next year," Maturi said via text.

DeWayne Jackson, who coached Sampson when he was a member of the Atlanta Celtics AAU program, confirmed that Sampson has decided to stay in school.

"He is pulling his name out of the draft," Jackson said Monday. "It’s 100 percent a done deal."

UPDATE: The Gophers confirmed Sampson's return with a statement Monday afternoon.

“We want to welcome Ralph Sampson III back to the Golden Gopher basketball program,” Tubby Smith said via the statement. “One thing the NCAA allows players to do is test the draft waters and having done that and also by consulting with his family he came to the decision to return to Minnesota. He is coming off a good junior season and I think having gone through the NBA workouts will only help him as we head into next season.”

As late as Sunday evening, some folks close to Sampson believed he planned to stay in the NBA draft pool and leave school to pursue a professional future.

Another former AAU coach, Norman Parker, said Sampson had decided to go pro because he "feels like it's his time." But his uncle, Alan Dial, didn't sound so sure.

He cast doubt on the notion Sunday night when he told me to "check my sources." 

Throughout the entire process, which included workouts with reputable NBA trainer Tim Grover in Chicago, Sampson and his family stayed quiet as he mulled his decision.

Sunday was the deadline for players without agents to withdraw from the draft and preserve their collegiate eligibility.

Next season, Sampson and all-Big Ten second-teamer Trevor Mbakwe will form one of the most experienced and talented frontcourts in a Big Ten with a multitude of youngsters playing in the paint.

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