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UTES LOSE ANOTHER PLAYER AS PRESTON OPTS TO LEAVE

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For the second day in a row, the University of Utah has lost a contributing player from its back-to-back WAC championship basketball teams.

Just a day after Ben Melmeth declared that he would forego his final two years of eligibility at Utah, senior point guard Terry Preston announced that he's also decided to end his days as a Ute hoopster."I've been here four years and I can honestly say it's been the best four years of my life," Preston said in a press release.

Preston, who averaged 4.2 points and 2.7 assists in his three-year collegiate career, said that he'll use the next year to earn money needed to pursue a career opportunity and a graduate degree at the university. The three-time academic all-WAC selection graduated this summer with a bachelors' degree in exercise and sports science.

"I have been so fortunate to be part of this program," Preston continued. "However, it has come to a point in my life where it was time to move forward and I didn't see basketball in my future past this year."

Utah coach Rick Majerus reluctantly accepted Preston's decision, placing a large portion of blame on the NCAA and its student-athlete rules which prohibit players from working and playing at the same time.

"I understand Terry's situation. Having graduated with honors, there is a degree of frustration on my part and Terry's," Majerus said. "Terry, if anything, was placed in this precarious position by being the prototype student-athlete . . .

"NCAA rules do not allow him to pursue career opportunities that are available now, so he feels that the door is closed. Academic advancement and career considerations now must play a viable role in this decision."

Unlike Preston, Melmeth left the U. to pursue a professional basketball career in his native Australia. The 6-foot-10 Aussie played two years for Judge Memorial High School and then two years at Utah.

The Utes also announced the signing of 6-9 Hanno Mottola from Helsinki, Finland, on Friday. Majerus said that Mottola, who still needs to be admitted to the university and pass the NCAA clearinghouse, has "fine hands and a nice touch." Mottola will play both the four and the five spots.