Signs pointing to Sampson’s departure from U

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 8, 2011 - 11:35 PM

As the deadline passed for underclassmen to remove themselves from the NBA draft, it didn't appear as though Ralph Sampson III was planning on returning to school.

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Ralph Sampson III, left, hit the floor against Cornell as a sophomore, along with Blake Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook.

Photo: Hannah Foslien, Associated Press

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By Sunday night, the majority of early entrants had announced their intentions to remain in or exit the NBA draft pool. Gophers center Ralph Sampson III, however, stayed quiet.

But multiple reports stated the junior's tenure at the University of Minnesota ended over the weekend.

The NCAA deadline for early entrants to withdraw from the draft and restore their college eligibility -- assuming they hadn't hired agents -- was 10:59 p.m. Sunday.

"Ralph is staying in the draft," said Norman Parker, Sampson's former AAU coach. "He feels like it's his time."

Rivals.com also reported that Sampson had decided to stay in the NBA draft.

But his uncle, Alan Dial, questioned those reports. "I'd check my sources," he said. Dial would not answer specific questions about Sampson's draft status.

Contacted by the Star Tribune again Sunday night, Parker stuck by his original statement. He also said he had spoken with Gophers assistant coach Ron Jirsa over the weekend and said the staff believed Sampson would remain in the draft, too.

"It's my understanding that he's staying in," Parker said.

The 6-11 center, who averaged 10.2 points per game for the Gophers during the 2010-11 campaign, was not on any mock draft boards after the season. His three years with the program were defined by promise and inconsistency.

Sampson worked out in Chicago with NBA trainer Tim Grover last week. Sunday, he joined other NBA hopefuls in a workout in New Jersey.

One unnamed NBA scout, polled by Yahoo! Sports, compared Sampson to Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green.

"He has some upside for sure. He was so clumsy and uncoordinated in high school that I thought he'd be a guy who rides the bench at Minnesota, but he's actually good," he told the website.

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