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Parker to leave NU early

Brian Sumers

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Point guard T.J. Parker will not return to the Northwestern basketball team for his senior season and plans to begin a professional career, he said Tuesday.

"I got an option I can take, and I just don’t feel like coming back and playing college basketball next year," Parker said. "I was just thinking about it for a long time."

Parker said he planned to hire his brother’s agent, Marc Fleisher, and explore his options, including playing in the NBA or Europe. Parker said he will withdraw from school this week and move to San Antonio to train.

"He said he’s going to go work out for the rest of the year and if no NBA teams are interested, then he’ll go back to Europe," junior forward Vedran Vukusic said.

Parker, who completed his third season at NU, said he decided while visiting his older brother, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, during spring break.

"I told all my teammates," he said. "I talked to all of them. I let them know how I was feeling. I’m not leaving on a bad note. I don’t regret what I did at Northwestern."

Fleisher said Parker has not signed a contract with his company. If Parker signs with an agent, he will be ineligible to return to NU.

"I told him the last time I spoke to him to think about it because it is a considerable move," Fleisher said. "I told him about testing the waters professionally and not hiring an agent."

Parker told NU coach Bill Carmody last week, but he said he never broached the subject with his coach or teammates during the season.

"(Carmody) was real surprised," Parker said. "We just had a long talk. He asked me if another year would make a difference, but that’s how I feel like doing it now."

A team spokesman said Carmody is on vacation, and he could not be reached for comment.

Parker began telling his teammates last week.

"I was shocked, I didn’t know what to say," Vukusic said. "I told him to really think about whatever he’s going to do. I was pretty much saying, ‘T.J., don’t make a decision that you’re going to regret later."’

Parker started 29 of 31 games this season, averaging 9.7 points and 2.3 assists in 33 minutes. Against Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, Carmody chose not to start Parker, but played him for 37 minutes in the Wildcats’ 58-56 win.

Parker said not starting the game did not influence his decision to leave school.

"It had nothing to do with it at all," he said. "I don’t mind coming off the bench."

In three seasons at Northwestern, Parker averaged 10 points and 2.8 assists.

Junior guard Evan Seacat, who played just seven minutes per game this season, might see his playing time increase with Parker’s departure. But the two joined NU in Carmody’s 2002 recruiting class, and Seacat said he’s disappointed his teammate chose to leave.

"When we came in here as freshman, we wanted to make the NCAA tournament," Seacat said. "It’s still our goal."�

Reach Brian Sumers at b-sumers@northwestern.edu.

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