Dudley Will Return To Bama

The Southeastern Conference Player of the Year will return for an encore. Erwin Dudley, the 6-8, 260 pound forward, officially announced on Wednesday that he will stay at The University of Alabama for one final season, his senior year.

"As I have stated previously, I will remain at The University of Alabama to play my senior season in 2002-03," said the Uniontown native who has led the SEC in rebounding the past two seasons and was the Associated Press and Coaches SEC Player of the Year in 2002. "If everything continues to go well, it looks like I'll graduate in May (2003). That's something that's very important to me and to my family.

"This team and this basketball program are special. We reached our goal of winning the SEC Championship, and we also made it to the NCAA tournament this season. But we want to take it all a step further next season. I want to be a part of all that to help make it happen. Hopefully, I'll have one of those dream kind of senior seasons where you go out and do big things on the court and then a few months later come back to Coleman Coliseum one last time to walk across the stage to get my diploma."

His goals are good news to Crimson Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried, whose team won the 2002 SEC regular season championship, advanced to the league tournament championship game, went two rounds in the NCAA tournament, and won the second-most number of games in a single season in school history with its 27-8 final season record. Bama will return four starters from that squad following the announcement that Rod Grizzard will forego his senior season to enter the NBA draft.

"Obviously, we are delighted," said Gottfried of the 2002 AP All-America's final decision. "It's a mature decision by a young man who wants to graduate and who should be considered a pre-season national player of the year candidate."

Dudley will go into his senior season ranking 17th all-time in scoring at Alabama with 1,346 career points. If he continues his current pace of at least 500 points a year-as he has done the last two seasons-he should finish among the top five all-time at Alabama, a company that includes Reggie King (2,168), Eddie Phillips (1,937), Leon Douglas (1,909), Buck Johnson (1,869) and Jerry Harper (1,861). Dudley already ranks ninth all-time at Alabama in rebounding with 908 in 100 career games for an average of 9.1 rebounds a game. His pace should place him among that all-time top five as well.

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