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Cal sophomore Powe to test draft

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Leon Powe received positive news about
his surgically repaired left knee, and that was exactly what
California's star forward needed to finally make a decision about
his future.

Powe declared for the NBA draft on Wednesday but does not plan
to sign with an agent immediately, giving him the option to return
to the Golden Bears for his junior season.

"My family and I thought this was the best decision right now,
to make myself eligible for the draft without hiring an agent,"
Powe said in a statement released by the school. "I want to leave
all of my options open."

Powe -- a local standout from Oakland Tech High School who
overcame a challenging childhood -- announced the decision a day
after he was examined in Colorado by Dr. Richard Steadman, the
renowned orthopedist who performed operations on Powe's knee two
years ago. He is projected as a late first-round pick or early
second-round selection. Powe had hinted he would turn pro if he
were expected to be a first-round choice.

Declaring for the NBA gives Powe the chance to work out for
teams to get a better idea of where he would go in the June 28
draft. He can maintain his college eligibility by not hiring an
agent and has until June 18 to withdraw and go back to school.

Powe was in the gym working out Wednesday afternoon, only hours
after announcing his decision. Scouts like his strength and length.

And hearing that his left knee is now as strong or stronger than
the right one may only boost his draft position.

"It was a great day yesterday," said Bernard Ward, Powe's
mentor and unofficial guardian. "He did some tests and the knee
was better than the other knee. I was just happy for Leon to see
how happy he was. ... The sky's the limit now. He'll stay in the
gym and get better."

The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Powe led Cal to its first NCAA Tournament bid in three years this season, but the Bears lost in
the first round to North Carolina State.

He earned second-team All-America honors after averaging Pac-10
bests of 20.5 points and 10.1 rebounds in his first season back
following a serious knee injury that sidelined him for all of the
2004-05 season.

"Leon and I have talked a lot about his future and his
options," coach Ben Braun said. "He knows he has my full support.
I'm proud that he has put himself in a great position both
athletically and academically. He just had the best season of his
basketball career, which is a credit to his work ethic and
perseverance."

Powe, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and league rebounding
leader in 2004, is 29 credits shy of a degree in social welfare,
and his late mother always emphasized the importance of education.
He said he plans on getting his degree no matter what he decides
with the draft.

Powe has said he would like to give back to the children in
Oakland, where Powe spent time in homeless shelters and cramped
apartments growing up.

"I'm just happy because at the end of the summer he will need
18 units to graduate," Ward said. "That's one of the reasons it
took so long to make a decision. School is big, too."