DeVon Hardin came away from the past two weeks convinced he would be a first-round pick in the June 28 NBA draft.

Then he opted to return to Cal to play his senior season.

"It'd probably be in the early to late 20s, in that range," the 6-foot-11 junior said of his projected 2007 draft status. "The kind of thing I was hearing was that I was in the mix with a couple guys. That means there's no guarantees.

"I feel like I can make that even better if I go back to school."

How much better?

"In the lottery," said his father, Michael.

Hardin and his father said published reports that he signed with an agent last weekend were incorrect. Hardin made the decision to withdraw from the draft Sunday evening, and Michael Hardin was filing the paperwork with the NBA office on Monday.

Hardin's return gives a huge boost to Cal, which will feature one of the nation's top 1-2 frontcourt tandems with Hardin and 6-9 sophomore forward Ryan Anderson, who averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season.

"Obviously, I'm happy for us, but I'm happy for DeVon," Cal coach Ben Braun said. "It's not an easy decision for a young man to make. I think it takes a lot of courage, it takes a lot of foresight."

Hardin, who missed two-thirds of last season after suffering a stress fracture to his left foot in December, spent the past two weeks touring the country with his father and conducting private workouts for nearly two dozen NBA teams.

Monday was the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft pool.

"It was a very difficult decision, especially getting down to the wire," said Hardin, a graduate of Newark Memorial High. "I got some pretty good offers as far as this year, but always Cal was the first option."

Michael Hardin said the family will purchase an insurance policy to guard against injury and added he was proud of his son for making a tough call.

"He's not in this to just say, 'I'm in the NBA.' He wants to make an impact, wants to do well," Michael Hardin said. "He probably would have been drafted in the first round. But he may or may not have been playing (next season).

"He was able to come to that conclusion in spite of the temptation. It was a very special Father's Day for me. As parents, we're proud when we see our kids say or do something that's very mature. This is by far the most mature decision he's had to make, and he made it in beautiful style."

Hardin worked out Sunday with the Warriors, flew to Los Angeles on Sunday night and had a session with Lakers scouts on Monday, even after making his decision.

Asked if there was a moment during the process when he thought he was headed to the NBA, Hardin conceded, "There were a couple moments like that."

Those moments were spawned by the generally positive feedback Hardin got from NBA teams.

"Several teams loved him, really loved him," Michael Hardin said. "All of the teams were blown away by his athleticism, although there was some room for improvement."

Ultimately, Hardin and his father never were convinced his draft position was certain.

"It happens every year where a kid thought to be a top-10 or a top-20 slips," Michael Hardin said. "Those guarantees are hard to come by, and they're not worth the paper they're not written on, anyway.

"We believe DeVon's upside is so great, there's just a bunch of good reasons to return to Cal, have another good year there and even elevate his value within the league."

Hardin averaged 10.7 and 8.4 rebounds per game last season but has been foul-prone and still is developing an offensive game.

He said he's at peace with the outcome of the process.

"I feel pretty good," Hardin said. "I made my decision. I've got to accept it and make the best of it."