Adrian Oliver needs time to recover from a lower back injury and wants to be near his family.
Those were the reasons the former Modesto Christian High School standout gave Tuesday for his decision to leave the men's basketball team at Washington.
"I'm leaving because I felt it would be the best move for me," Oliver said via cell phone. "My back injury will put me out for a while, I have personal reasons back home, and I feel my family needs me home at this time, so I've decided to come back home and to go to school somewhere in the area."
Oliver will return to Modesto on Dec. 15 after the end of the current academic quarter and will visit several schools before deciding on his next stop.
"I have given a lot of thought to where I'm going to transfer," he said. "I can't say right now, but it's somewhere where people in Modesto will be happy and where we will be able to contend for a national championship. I'm excited because it's a fresh start, and my family will be at every game."
Oliver started 13 games as a freshman at Washington, earning extended playing time after scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds in a 91-74 victory over Eastern Washington. But that performance stood alone as Oliver's highlight, and he dropped out of the starting lineup after being held scoreless in a 75-47 loss to Washington State.
He still played in all 32 games last season, averaging 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds as Washington posted a 19-13 record.
This season brought a rash of injuries to Oliver. He broke his nose during the team's tour of Greece in September, a knee strain kept him out of another game, and his back has been a constant problem. He saw action in five of the Huskies' first seven games this season, averaging 3.4 points and 1.8 rebounds.
"My playing time this year is down because I was hurt," Oliver said. "I felt once I got better and fully recovered, I would get back on the court. It's just unfortunate that I haven't started the season how I liked."
Oliver said he attempted to play through the injuries but aggravated his back strain at a practice last Thursday and remained home while the Huskies were losing at Oklahoma State 96-71 on Saturday.
"I have a herniated disc and a bulge in another disc in my lower back," he said. "Instead of being hurt up here, I felt I should just make the move back home."
Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar announced Oliver's intent to transfer during a news conference following practice Tuesday. Oliver informed him of the decision before practice.
"He thought being away from home was something that he could adjust to," Romar said in a university press release. "But being here has just been too difficult for him, being away from his family.
"Freshmen, when they get away from home, usually are homesick. Just about every one of them go through it. Most don't (leave) after that period. But in Adrian's case, it was a little more difficult for him. He's been injured as much as anyone, and that doesn't make it any easier."
Oliver averaged 26.1 points as a junior and 25.5 points as a senior at Modesto Christian. Twice he was named The Bee's player of the year and the state Division V player of the year and as a senior was named first-team all-state.
That résumé put him on many college basketball blue chip recruiting lists. He chose Washington over Kentucky, where MC classmate Michael Porter accepted a basketball scholarship.
Oliver was part of what was supposed to be one of the great recruiting classes in Huskies' history, joining forward Quincy Pondexter of Fresno's San Joaquin Memorial, center Spencer Hawes and swingman Phil Nelson.
Hawes jumped to the NBA after one season and was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, and Nelson transferred to Portland State after his freshman year, leaving Pondexter as the only member of that class still in Seattle.
Romar said the injuries and subsequent lack of playing time this season probably weighed heavily on Oliver's decision to leave.
"You could see it a little bit," Romar said of Oliver's disenchantment to Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Dan Raley.
Senior guard Ryan Appleby, a Seattle-area native who transferred to Washington after one season at Florida, also told Raley he sensed something wasn't right with Oliver.
"I think when somebody hasn't been getting a lot of playing time through the year, you can kind of sense there's something the matter with him," Appleby said. "I don't think Adrian was happy with his playing time. I don't know if he thought he could play here, either."
If Oliver transfers to another Division I school, he would have to sit out the remainder of this season and would be eligible to play as a sophomore following the fall 2008 semester.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.