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Originally published June 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 1, 2007 at 9:01 PM

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UW's Hawes confirms he will leave UW for NBA

Spencer Hawes says today he is officially leaving college to turn professional.

Seattle Times staff reporter

In a decision that seemed pre-ordained from the day he committed to become a Washington Husky in the fall of 2005, Spencer Hawes said today he is leaving college to turn professional.

The school released a statement shortly after noon with Hawes saying "I made a decision I believe is best for my future.''

Hawes said all along he might have turned pro straight out of Seattle Prep High School had he been allowed, but new NBA rules required he attend college for at least one year.

Hawes did that, then announced in April he would explore his NBA draft options, with most expecting then he would not return to UW.

The 7-foot Hawes is expected to be taken between the No. 7 and No. 12 picks of the first round, having worked out for most of the teams in that range during the last two weeks. His most recent workout was Friday at Sacramento, which has the No. 10 pick in the draft.

He then returned home to make a final decision just before the deadline --- players have until Monday at 2 p.m. PDT to pull out of the draft.

"After meeting with everyone, getting all the appropriate feedback and going through the entire evaluative process, I made a decision I believe is the best for my future and that is to remain eligible for the NBA Draft,'' Hawes said in a statement released by the school this afternoon. "The decision to further my career in the NBA at this point in time was difficult. Every day I had different feelings about it. But at the end of the game, I have to be realistic and trust my instincts.''

Hawes said the fact that UW struggled a bit this season "made the decision not to return to Washington very difficult. Certainly there are some things I would have liked to accomplish in college. But, I feel I made the best decision for my family and my future.''

Hawes becomes the first player to leave UW for the NBA after attending school for just one season --- Martell Webster, a former teammate at Seattle Prep, signed with UW in 2004 but went straight to the pros at a time when that was still allowed.

Hawes, however, leaves UW with a mixed legacy.

He set several school freshmen records, including most points (461) and blocks (54). He also led the team in scoring at 14.9 points per game and was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team and honorable mention All-Conference.

But he came to UW with huge expectations as part of a recruiting class that some expected could carry the Huskies to the Final Four immediately and Washington, instead, didn't even qualify for the NIT, finishing 19-12 overall and 8-10 and in seventh place in the Pac-10.

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And now, two of the four members of that class are already gone with forward Phil Nelson transferring to Portland State following the season.

And while Hawes' overall numbers were solid, he struggled at mid-season with a virus that caused his weight to drop from 247 pounds to about 227 as well as a sprained ankle that held him out of a game at Washington State. (He's now back to about 247 helping to mitigate his weight as a concern among NBA scouts).

The illness and injury came as the Huskies lost six of seven games to begin Pac-10 play.

Hawes said on several occasions that improving his legacy might be one motivating factor that could convince him to return to UW for another season. Hawes also debated whether returning for another season might allow him to move up a few spots in the draft.

But in the end, Hawes, who also had knee surgery last fall, decided on the safe and practical route.

If he is taken where projected, he will receive at least a two-year guaranteed contract worth somewhere around $4 million.

Husky coaches knew the day Hawes signed that he might only stay a year and began preparing for that eventuality even before he showed up.

"It's just like when Nate Robinson left. People said 'well what are you going to do now. Are you going to close the program down?,''' UW coach Lorenzo Romar said earlier when asked about the likelihood of Hawes leaving. "No. Other guys stepped up.

"Guys like (sophomore-to-be forward) Quincy Pondexter are capable of stepping up big time. Jon Brockman has already stepped it up. We'll have guys like (guard) Tim Morris (a transfer from Stanford) coming in, a rejuvenated Justin Dentmon. We expect a big year from Ryan Appleby. Other guys are capable of stepping up.''

With Hawes teaming with the 6-7 Brockman inside, the Huskies changed their approach a little last season to favor more of an inside game.

Without Hawes, the Huskies will likely return to more of an up-tempo style, with Romar saying that might have happened anyway with UW projecting to be stronger in the backcourt than it was last season.

"We slowed it down, but it wasn't entirely because of him,'' Romar said, saying that an inability to press on defense as well as in the past, or protect the ball, also led to a slower tempo.

"We'll just have to do things a little differently,'' Romar said. "But here at Washington, that's not new, because that's what we did before Spencer.''

Romar, however, points out that the Huskies won't necessarily be smaller inside.

The team still has five post players on its roster --- Brockman, 6-8 junior Artem Wallace, 7-foot sophomore Joe Wolfinger, 6-9 incoming freshman Matthew Bryan-Amaning and 6-8 incoming freshman Darnell Gant.

However, only Brockman, who was named to the All-Pac-10 team last season, is a proven commodity.

Wallace has been mostly a reserve and also recently was arrested for suspicion of being involved in a hit-and-run incident. Charges are expected to be filed in that incident soon, though indications are that Wallace wasn't the driver and is unlikely to incur any charges that would significantly impact his status as a Husky.

Wolfinger missed last season with a foot injury that is still not completely healed, though Romar holds out hope he will be 100 percent when the team takes a trip to Greece in August.

"That will be huge for him,'' Romar said. "But the timing is great (to determine Wolfinger's progress heading into the season).''

Hawes' departure leaves UW with 13 scholarship players for next season, including four incoming freshmen. Guard Venoy Overton of Franklin High, however, has yet to achieve qualifying status.

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