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Terps' Francis Headed To NBA

Steve Francis, a second-team All-America and one of college basketball's most exciting players, will leave Maryland after just one season and declare for the NBA draft, published reports said Tuesday.

Sources close to the situation said the 6-foot-3 Francis would announce his decision Wednesday. Maryland has called a news conference for Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Francis averaged 17 points for the Terrapins (28-6), who were ranked as high as No. 2 this season but lost to St. John's in the NCAA tournament regional semifinals.

Maryland coach Gary Williams had indicated Saturday that he would meet with Francis on Monday to discuss the junior college transfer's future. Francis had said previously he would return for his senior year.

A native of Takoma Park, Md., Francis burst onto the national scene right from the start as he became a daily fixture on the highlight reels with his spectacular open-court moves and dunks.

Maryland lost starters Obinna Ekezie, Terrell Stokes and Laron Profit to graduation, leaving Terence Morris as the only returning starter.

Junior forward Albert White of Missouri has already announced his decision to leave school early. Among those still being speculated about are Duke's Elton Brand, the national player of the year, and William Avery; Connecticut's Richard Hamilton, the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four, and Khalid El-Amin; Ron Artest of St. John's; Baron Davis of UCLA; Jumaine Jones of Georgia; Chris Porter of Auburn; and Mateen Cleaves of Michigan State.

Two junior point guards, Ed Cota of North Carolina and Scoonie Penn of Ohio State, have announced they will return next season.

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