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Friday, April 4, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sanford Leaves Huskies, Questions -- `I Just Want To Move On,' Forward Says Of Exit To NBA

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Those seeking definitive answers why Washington forward Mark Sanford will skip his senior season found none.

When the 32-minute news conference concluded in the tiny room inside Edmundson Pavilion, no one knew more than when they arrived. Sanford wasn't evasive, but he wasn't forthcoming.

His only reason for leaving school? "I just want to move on," he said.

"It's just time . . . time to do something else," Sanford said.

Dressed all in black, Sanford was upbeat and funny. He smiled, laughed and stroked his goateed chin.

He said his decision isn't a mistake.

He was accompanied by Washington assistant Byron Boudreaux and teammate Jan Wooten. No one else from the team arrived. Not even Husky Coach Bob Bender, who Washington officials said was tied up in meetings.

"This decision is not based on financial reasons," Sanford said. "It wasn't based on my academic standard. It wasn't based on the last game I played in. It wasn't based on next season and our potential.

"My decision was solely based on Mark Sanford just wanting something different for Mark Sanford."

Last year, Sanford left Washington to enter the NBA draft. He participated in a pre-draft camp before returning to school. This time, NCAA rules prohibit his return.

He said he expects to be drafted in the first round, believes Washington will be successful next season and plans to earn his degree.

"I made a promise to my mother and the coaching staff that I will come back and finish my degree requirements," said Sanford, a business-administration major.

And after giving thanks to coaches, teammates, fans and even the media, he left.

Sanford's place in Washington history is still undetermined. Statistically, Sanford is 13th on the all-time scoring list and fourth in career blocked shots. He finished with an average of 16 points and 6.6 rebounds.

More important, he was one of the most important pieces with which Bender built a respectable basketball team that has qualified the past two seasons for the National Invitation Tournament.

"I hope people remember the good things," said Portland State Coach Ritchie McKay, who recruited Sanford as Washington assistant. "A lot of people will say, `What if he had stayed?' But I'll remember what he gave. And that was a lot."

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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