Christopher returns to loaded Cal

April, 9, 2009
Patrick Christopher may have the best assessment of his game of any potential draft pick projected outside the lottery.

He said he's not ready for the NBA yet. And he wants to embrace the college experience for one more season.

That's why the Cal junior guard said Thursday afternoon that he's returning for his senior season and won't declare for the NBA draft, despite reports that had said he would after Cal lost to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"I was asked after we lost the game if I was definitely coming back next year and I said, 'I don't know.' We flew back to Berkeley and woke up the next day and there were a million text messages that I had declared for the draft," Christopher said by phone from Berkeley. "Everyone ran with it from there. It was everywhere that I was testing the waters. It was even on ESPN once. I hadn't officially told anyone. I am coming back for my senior year."

Christopher averaged 14.5 points a game last season, his first year under former Stanford and Golden State Warriors coach Mike Montgomery. The Bears finished tied with Arizona State for third in the Pac-10 at 11-7, and were 22-11 overall. Christopher and Jerome Randle should be the top backcourt in the Pac-10 next season, or at the very least the most experienced.

"It wasn't as consistent a year as I had planned," Christopher said. "I think I'm mature enough to see I played in spurts. I didn't put together the season I wanted to and that affected my decision. I want to come back and build on the individual and work toward the collective things we were working on."

Christopher said getting his degree is important, and his desire to go on a deeper run in the NCAAs was also a major factor in his decision.

"I want to put us more on the map," Christopher said. "I'm embracing the whole college experience. I want to take it all in. It's my last year. I've talked to a couple of guys in the NBA now and they miss that whole aspect in basketball, the environment, and I don't want to run from that."

• Davidson coach Bob McKillop said he doesn't know what Stephen Curry will do. Curry would be a lottery pick if he chooses to declare for the NBA draft by the April 26 deadline. McKillop said graduating from Davidson is important to Curry. Davidson doesn't offer summer school, just two independent study classes, which would certainly make it a longer-term project for Curry to graduate if he left early for the NBA.

• The Southern Conference moved its conference tournament from Chattanooga to Charlotte for next season. It will return to Chattanooga for 2011. It was there in March and the hometown Mocs won. Davidson lost to the College of Charleston, which then lost to Chattanooga in the final. Chattanooga received a No. 16 seed and got blown out by Connecticut. Good move by the SoCon to move the tournament to Charlotte, which will be centrally located for the conference and, selfishly for Davidson, will give the Wildcats a better shot to win.

• McKillop hasn't officially committed to coaching the Championship for Young Men's USA team this summer in New Zealand. He coached the team last summer. The team will consist of rising college sophomores and incoming freshmen. The competition is set for the first week in July and the team will train with the U.S. World University Games team in Colorado Springs, Colo., the last two weeks of June.

• New Memphis coach Josh Pastner is by himself with the Tigers, trying to settle down in the first crazy week as a head coach. Pastner is interviewing assistants to assemble a staff and has met with each returning player. Pastner said Shawn Taggart told him he would declare for the draft, but wouldn't sign with an agent. He said Willie Kemp, Roburt Sallie, Pierre Henderson-Niles, Wesley Witherspoon, Doneal Mack, Matt Simpkins and Angel Garcia all said they would come back for next season. "I told them that 'You guys didn't come to play for me, and I didn't come here to be the head coach, but life throws unexpected curve balls so here we go,'" Pastner said.

To no one's surprise, Pastner expects freshman Tyreke Evans to declare for the draft. He said he was hoping C.J. Henry would stay, but wasn't sure. Henry's blue-chip brother, Xavier, has asked for his release and could go to Kentucky to follow John Calipari or to Kansas, his original second choice.

Pastner said he was doing what he could to keep the other three signed recruits, but understood that they didn't sign to play for him. "I'm OK with it," Pastner said. "I'm just taking it day by day." Pastner said he was glad it was a dead period next week in recruiting so he could concentrate on working the returning players out at school.

• I have to disagree with the premise that Ed Davis was being hidden by Roy Williams. Davis was banged up early, developed during the season and blossomed in the national title game. Williams had plenty of experienced options in front of Davis for most of the season in Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson. Why would Williams ever sacrifice winning the title so he could have a player come back next season? I don't buy that for a second.

• The Arizona Republic reported that Russ Pennell will be the head coach at Grand Canyon University. In a normal season in which there would be a number of openings, Pennell might have landed a Division I gig. But there weren't many openings this season that would have fit Pennell, who handled his interim job with class. He has said many times that he wanted quality of life and balance, and he may find that in a less-intense Grand Canyon.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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