FONTANA, Calif. (AP) _ Corey Benjamin, who averaged 19.8 points and five rebounds as a sophomore at Oregon State last season, said Wednesday he is passing up his final two collegiate seasons to make himself available for the NBA draft.

The 6-foot-6 guard made the announcement at Fontana High, where he averaged 27.6 points and 11.5 rebounds in his senior year.

``I have decided now is the time to take on a new challenge,'' Benjamin said. ``For a basketball player, the ultimate challenge is to play and succeed in the NBA. After a great deal of thought and discussions with family members and friends, I have decided to enter the 1998 NBA draft.

``It has always been a dream to play in the NBA, and I can't keep passing this option up.''

Benjamin, 20, averaged 17.5 points in two seasons at Oregon State, scoring 30 or more points in six games. He ranked among the Pacific-10 Conference's top 10 in steals and field goal percentage, and was one of four players in the league to lead his team in scoring and rebounding.

``Corey's early entry in the NBA draft is a dream come true for him and his family, and I certainly wish him the best,'' Oregon State coach Eddie Payne said in a statement issued by the school. ``Corey contributed greatly to the excitement of basketball at Oregon State. He is one of the most talented and gifted student-athletes I have ever been around.

``Corey needs to work on certain aspects of his game, but that is the case for every player at any level. I'm very happy for him, and I want to thank him for his efforts at Oregon State.''

Benjamin said he intends to continue his education and earn a degree.

``I have very fond memories of my time at Oregon State,'' he said. ``The university has given me a great opportunity to develop as a basketball player and to gain a first-rate education. I would especially like to thank coach Eddie Payne for his guidance over the past two years, as well as all of my teammates at Oregon State.''

Benjamin said he has not yet retained an agent, and therefore would be eligible to return to college basketball if he chooses. Hiring an agent would make him a pro and would cost him any remaining eligibility.