PHILADELPHIA (06/19/03) - Saint Joseph's junior guard Jameer Nelson has withdrawn from consideration for the 2003 NBA draft and will return to the university for the 2003-04 academic year. Nelson, who submitted the required letter to the NBA office earlier today, never signed with an agent and thus retains his final year of collegiate eligibility. "After considering all the options, the best decision for my family, my education and my life is to return to school and complete my college career," Nelson said. "I love St. Joe's, the coaches and my teammates, and the chance to help our program reach even greater heights is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. This is also a chance to give back to something that has given so much to me." Arguably the finest point guard in the 94-year history of Hawk basketball, Nelson averaged 19.7 points and 4.7 assists per game last season while leading SJU to its third straight Atlantic 10 regular-season title and a second NCAA Tournament at-large bid in three years. The Chester (Pa.) HS product finished the year with 591 points, the fifth-highest single season total in school history, and was an Associated Press honorable mention All-America selection. "I've said all along that Jameer is the best point guard in America, but he is an even better person," said Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli. "He cares so much about his school, his teammates and our program that no one should be surprised with this decision. He is coming back to school for all the right reasons, and his legacy will be like those left by Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Lionel Simmons, four-year guys with tremendous character. "It isn't about being a first-round draft pick any more. It's about being a lottery pick next year and a candidate for national player of the year. Jameer will break every record that we have, he's a first-team All-American and he'll be revered as long as they play basketball at Saint Joseph's." Nelson, who already owns the top two single season assist totals in school history, ranks second on the all-time list with 543 assists. He trails only Rap Curry, who collected 580 assists from 1990-94. Nelson also ranks 17th on SJU's all-time scoring list with 1,435 points. He needs 551 points as a senior to surpass Bernard Blunt (1990-95) as the Hawks' all-time scoring leader and 565 points to become the first 2,000-point scorer in men's basketball at Saint Joseph's. Nelson was a standout earlier this month at the NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago. He was invited to the camp under a new NCAA regulation that allows underclassmen to be evaluated while retaining collegiate eligibility, provided they do not sign with an agent. "Professional basketball is still how I want to earn a living and support my family," said Nelson. "The last few weeks have convinced me that will happen. I am grateful to the NBA for giving me that chance, and to everyone at Saint Joseph's and beyond who has supported me." The 2003-04 Hawks need 23 victories to become the winningest four-year group in school history. They also have an opportunity to play in four straight post-season tournaments, which has not happened at Saint Joseph's since 1979-82. The team has a 68-26 record (.723) since Nelson's arrival and has been nationally ranked in each of his three seasons. "Jameer understands there is still a lot for him to accomplish individually and that he can help take the program places it's never been," said Martelli. "There is nothing about this kid that isn't worthy of admiration. He is a special, special player and person." "The decision hasn't been easy," Nelson added, "but the process has been very valuable. My focus now is to keep getting better and to have a great senior year."