Aaron Gray Will Return to Pitt for his Senior

Aaron Gray, considered the top returning center in the Big East Conference, withdrew from 2006 NBA Draft. The National Basketball Association Draft early entry withdrawal deadline was Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.

PITTSBURGH--Junior center Aaron Gray announced Sunday that he will return to the University of Pittsburgh for his senior season and withdraw from the 2006 NBA Draft. Per NCAA rules, Gray retained the option to withdraw from the draft and return for his final season at Pitt since he did not sign with an agent. The NBA Draft Early Entry withdrawal deadline was Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.

"I am extremely excited that Aaron will be returning to the court for us next year, but I am even more excited that he will be representing the University of Pittsburgh," Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon said. "He embodies everything you want a student-athlete to stand for. While his progress has been substantial over the last three years, I believe his improvement in the coming season will be even more dramatic. From the information we gathered from NBA people, the consensus was that Aaron would have been a first round pick in this year's draft or next year's draft. Either way, he will have a long NBA career. Along with his parents, Mike and Sandy, Aaron has always made decisions for the right reasons and this is just another example."

"In discussing my options the last couple of weeks with my family and Coach Dixon, I feel that it is in my best interest to return to Pitt for my senior season," Gray said. "My options were to play my senior year and graduate from the University of Pittsburgh or play in the NBA. This decision will allow me to achieve both goals. I'm looking forward to continuing the success that we've established at Pitt and finishing my career with fellow seniors Levon Kendall, Antonio Graves and Doyle Hudson."

An Emmaus, Pa., native, Gray will enter the 2006-07 season as a Big East Player of the Year candidate. Last year, he became the fourth player in school history to earn the Big East's Most Improved Player Award. He also became the sixth player in school history to earn All-Big East First Team honors. Gray, who led the Big East in both rebounding (10.5 rpg.) and double-doubles (18), was the only player in the league to average a double-double (13.9 ppg./10.5 rpg.) in 2005-06. He also shot 52.6 percent (170-323) from the floor and led Pitt with 49 blocked shots. Gray also became the first player at Pitt to average a double-double since Jerome Lane accomplished the feat in 1987-88.

Pitt returns eight of its top-10 players from a squad that finished 25-8 overall and 10-6 in Big East play, advanced to the Big East Championship final for the fifth time in the last six seasons, and appeared in a school record fifth straight NCAA Tournament.

The 2006 NBA Draft will be held on June 28 at Madison Square Garden.

Harry G. Psaros can be contacted at harrypsaros@msn.com

Panther More Top Stories