SEATTLE (Olympics) - New Zealand's promising teenager Jess McCormack has left the Washington Huskies basketball team and will now focus firmly on preparing for the Beijing Games with the Tall Ferns.
McCormack, a power forward/center, appeared in 19 games for the Huskies and started in 14 but her freshman year was plagued by injuries.
"Although a complete surprise," Washington coach Tia Jackson said on the university's website, "I do know that adjusting to college life and being so far away from home can be a challenge.
"And it's been a difficult year for Jess, having battled with numerous injuries and the distance between Seattle and her homeland of Auckland, New Zealand.
"Albeit a very tough decision, we certainly wish Jess all the success in the world, especially in the upcoming 2008 Olympics; but more importantly we wish her peace of mind and complete happiness wherever this path takes her."
The 1.94m McCormack averaged 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Huskies.
She freshman missed three games with a sprained ankle, one due to illness and three others after suffering a concussion in a game against the University of Southern California on January 13.
She is to stay at the university through the end of the winter quarter.
McCormack spoke to the university newspaper, The Daily.
"I just haven't got completely right this whole year," McCormack said. "I want to be comfortable with where I am and it just hasn't quite worked out that way, unfortunately."
"I've been thinking about it backwards and forwards and talking with a lot of people about it," McCormack said. "It hasn't been one moment in time. It's been a process.
"I love the program. I love the girls," McCormack said. "Unfortunately, it just hasn't worked out for me. [The decision] was very, very hard."
"I'm going to talk it over with my parents.
"Hopefully I'll come back to the States somewhere, but I have no idea where at this moment."
McCormack is expected to play with the Tall Ferns in their preparations ahead of the Olympics in Europe, Australia, and China.
New Zealand reached the quarter-finals of the Athens Olympics.
photo Dan Vernon
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photo Dan Vernon