With the deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft Early Entry list and retain NCAA eligibility just a few weeks out, a handful of programs are eagerly awaiting the final decisions of multiple players.
After the finalized NBA Draft Early Entry list was released at the beginning of June, the next big date on the calendar suddenly shifted to July 7: the date by which players who wish to retain college eligibility must withdraw from the draft pool. While the official withdrawal deadline is July 19, according to the NBA, the NCAA has bylaws which stipulate that decisions must be made no later than ten days following the NBA Draft Combine.
With the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to players, there is a unique option available to last year’s seniors who might not be satisfied with their current draft stock. While some have taken the plunge with both feet and have hired an agent, there’s a large crop of immensely talented players who may still return to the college game — and a few programs, in particular, are waiting with bated breath to see how things shake out.
Programs such as Houston and South Carolina have already received their respective shares of good news, with the announced returns of multiple important players (Marcus Sasser and Fabian White for UH; Keyshawn Bryant and Jermaine Couisnard for UofSC). Below are more than a dozen other programs that are hoping for the same turn of fortune between now and July 7.
Alabama Crimson Tide
After one of the better seasons in program history, the expectations on Alabama men’s basketball are astronomical heading into 2021-22. While the heart and soul of the team (Herbert Jones) and its most dangerous shooter (John Petty) are both gone for good, the Tide have three players who could still come back next year. Sharpshooter Joshua Primo (No. 37 on ESPN Big Board) registered a great freshman campaign, and seeing as his name is appearing in some mock first rounds, he probably won’t be back in Tuscaloosa. On the bright side, last year’s leading scorer Jaden Shackelford (NR) isn’t getting a ton of draft buzz and likely will return.
Prediction: Primo stays in the draft; Shackelford returns to Alabama.
Arizona State Sun Devils
It has been a chaotic offseason in Tempe thus far, with a mass exodus of transfers and draft declarations being (theoretically) offset by a major influx of talent via the portal — the sudden de-commitment of AJ Bramah notwithstanding. That volatility could continue well into next month, as both Marcus Bagley (No. 33) and Alonzo Verge (NR) have each put their names in the NBA Draft and in the transfer portal. Unlike some of their former ASU teammates, neither player has found a new alma mater to this point. Bagley is the more likely of the two to be drafted, while a more suitable path for Verge may be to withdraw his name and focus on finding a new school where he can thrive.
Prediction: Bagley stays in the draft; Verge withdraws, then transfers.
It’s not all that often that you see a team from the Mid-American Conference throw four names into the NBA Draft pool, but that’s precisely how things went for UB following a loss in the NIT to finish last season. While Jayvon Graves and Ronaldo Segu have already announced their decisions — Graves will go pro, Segu will not — the biggest question marks were always going to be rising seniors Jeenathan Williams (NR) and Josh Mballa (NR), who combined to average over 33 points and 17 rebounds per game last year. Forced to choose the better NBA prospect of the two, Mballa may have the edge thanks to his rebounding and defensive prowess; however, at 6-7, the French forward is a bit undersized to play the four at the next level. With neither player gracing the ESPN Big Board, it’s safe to assume both of them will return.
Prediction: Williams and Mballa both return to Buffalo.
In case you hadn’t noticed by now, the list of teams with multiple players on the draft fence is not limited to the blue bloods of the sport. On the contrary, Chattanooga is one of a few mid-major clubs that is feeling a bit exposed as its two top stars test the waters. Thankfully for Mocs fans, neither Malachi Smith (NR) nor David Jean-Baptiste (NR) appear in the ESPN Big Board, so they likely won’t be going anywhere just yet. The pair combined for roughly 33 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists per game in 2020-21. If both were to come back in 2021-22, they would once again form one of the SOCON’s most dangerous backcourts. That said, it’s worth noting that Jean-Baptiste signed with an NCAA-approved agent (GoEmpire) and was already a fifth-year senior last year, so Chattanooga may have seen the last of this prolific pairing.
Prediction: Jean-Baptiste stays in the draft; Smith returns to Chattanooga.
Fresno State Bulldogs
This one actually came as a bit of a surprise, even as someone with an ear to the ground in the Mountain West. Despite a dearth of draft chatter in the weeks leading up to the release of the early entry list, when the names finally dropped on June 1, both Orlando Robinson (NR) and Deon Stroud (NR) were among those in the fray. Robinson definitely has pro potential but could absolutely use more time to polish his game and sharpen his decision-making. As for Stroud, his dunking ability and penchant for taking gambles on defense leads to plenty of highlights, but it hasn’t translated into much hype heading into the draft.
Prediction: Robinson and Stroud both return to Fresno State.
The Jayhawks find themselves in an odd position as the withdrawal date approaches, with three players currently testing the waters and space for only two of them to join the team on scholarships. As it stands, at least one of Ochai Agbaji (No. 69), Jalen Wilson (NR), and Remy Martin (NR) will be keeping their name in the draft. Based on current projections — and given that Martin made the decision to transfer to Kansas and appears to be part of their plans — Agbaji seems like the most probable departure. If Kansas can limit the losses to just one player out of this trio, they should be in good shape. As the old saying goes, “two out of three ain’t bad.”
Prediction: Agbaji stays in the draft; Wilson and Martin return to Kansas.
Similar to the situation with Remy Martin and Kansas, former Georgia guard Sahvir Wheeler (NR) has announced his transfer destination but also kept his name in the NBA Draft. Joining him is Davion Mintz (NR), who is the only player from last year’s Kentucky squad to enter the draft while retaining his eligibility. With an incredibly deep draft class and with both players having plenty of room for refinement, odds are good that both players will be suiting up for Coach Cal in 2021-22. If they can join forces with high-profile transfers Oscar Tshiebwe, Kellan Grady, and CJ Fredrick, the ‘Cats could quickly get back to their usual perch atop the college basketball landscape, which might also do wonders for everybody’s respective draft stock.
Prediction: Wheeler and Mintz both return to Kentucky.
The Terps are coming into 2021-22 with high hopes thanks to a few big offseason scores in the transfer market, including the above-mentioned Qudus Wahab and former Rhode Island standout Fatts Russell. Landing those players is a massive boon for head coach Mark Turgeon, who was linked for a time to the Oklahoma position that eventually went to Porter Moser. Instead, the school locked up Turgeon long-term, and now the coach is hoping he can do the same with stars Andrew Wiggins (No. 86) and Eric Ayala (NR). While Wiggins could be a fringe second-rounder, he may be better served by spending one more year in College Park. If he and Ayala come back, this could be a Top 10 team in the country.
Prediction: Wiggins and Ayala both return to Maryland.
Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Though it went somewhat under the radar, Isaiah Wong (NR) had a tremendous season for the Canes last year, finishing with averages of 17.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on his way to an All-ACC nod. It’s no wonder, then, that the talented scorer would throw his name in the ring. Slightly more surprising is the entry of Kameron McGusty (NR), who has been solid in his four years with the program but doesn’t exactly jump out as a clear-cut NBAer. Wong can create for himself and is a capable shooter, but he would likely benefit from waiting one more season to go all-in on the draft.
Prediction: Wong and McGusty both return to Miami.
This one doesn’t feel like it is too dangerous for Juwan Howard and Co., but it’s a situation to keep an eye on, of course. Star big man Hunter Dickinson (NR) was late to throw his name into the mix after a standout freshman season, but it’s widely expected that he will be back in Ann Arbor for his sophomore year. The other potential draft entrant is DeVante’ Jones (NR), who comes over as a highly coveted transfer from Coastal Carolina. The reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year, Jones averaged over 19 points, seven rebounds, and three steals per game last season, so hopes are high that he’ll don the Maize and Blue come November. This is a potential Final Four team if these two are around.
Prediction: Dickinson and Jones both return to Michigan.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Speaking of Final Four contenders, the Buckeyes could be in that same conversation if they get both of their fence-riding stars back. After losing to No. 15-seeded Oral Roberts in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, it’s only natural that stars EJ Liddell (NR) and Duane Washington Jr. (NR) would take a look at what might lie beyond the college game. Both players are rumored to have received invites to the NBA Draft Combine, so things could still take a turn, but this is an OSU team that could have some serious 2019 Virginia vibes if both players do come back, especially considering Liddell will be among the preseason favorites to win the Naismith Award.
Prediction: Liddell and Washington both return to Ohio State.
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
As was just mentioned, this ORU squad took the country by storm in March when they knocked off No. 2-seeded Ohio State and then made their way into the Sweet Sixteen. The two major architects of that run — Max Abmas (No. 29) and Kevin Obanor (NR) — are now looking to parlay that publicity into a professional career. That dream appears to be closer for Abmas, who was the nation’s leading scorer a year ago and whose ability to shoot the long ball will look mighty appealing to NBA general managers. Obanor, on the other hand, could boost his own draft stock by returning to an ORU team where he will be the unquestioned top dog.
Prediction: Abmas stays in the draft; Obanor returns to ORU.
If Dana Altman’s time in Eugene has proven anything, it’s that he generally knows what he’s doing at any given moment. So, while it may seem risky to take on three transfers whose names are listed among the early entries, the longtime coach doesn’t get burned too often in the transfer market. That said, all three of De’Vion Harmon (NR), Jacob Young (NR), and Quincy Guerrier (NR) have pro potential, so there is a non-zero chance that one or all of them never make their way to Eugene. The better bet, though, is that all three end up pulling out of draft consideration prior to the July 7 deadline. This is a legitimate second-weekend team if they do.
Prediction: Harmon, Young, and Guerrier all return to Oregon.
Oregon State Beavers
Similar to the situation at Oral Roberts, a number of Beavers are hoping that the exposure of a deep NCAA Tournament run can help them earn a spot on an NBA roster. For Wayne Tinkle, the three players currently testing the waters are Warith Alatishe (NR), Roman Silva (NR), and Maurice Calloo (NR). Alatishe has the highest motor of the three, but his game lacks refinement in areas. Calloo is a great shooter considering his size but struggled with consistency. Silva has NBA size at 7’1″ and 265 pounds and considering he has already graduated — and that Wayne Tinkle brought in 7’2″ transfer Chol Marial from Maryland — there’s reason to believe the big man won’t be back in Corvallis, even if he doesn’t get drafted.
Prediction: Silva stays in the draft; Alatishe and Calloo return to Oregon State.
If the early part of the offseason is any indication, UCF may not experience nearly as much roster turnover as it once appeared they would. There were rumblings that Isaiah Adams might enter the NBA Draft, but his name did not appear on the early entry list. UNLV transfer Cheikh Mbacke Diong was going to test the draft waters prior to signing with Johnny Dawkins. Perhaps most importantly, star Brandon Mahan entered and then subsequently withdrew from the transfer portal. That leaves Darius Perry (NR) and CJ Walker (NR) as the two Knights whose futures remain in the air, though neither project to be drafted next month. The safe money says they’ll be back in Orlando for one more go.
Prediction: Perry and Walker both return to UCF.
Who can forget the magical Final Four run that Mick Cronin and the Bruins put together this spring? Johnny Juzang (No. 50) was arguably the best player in the entire tournament, and his draft stock skyrocketed accordingly. While the former five-star recruit was once considered a one-and-done prospect at Kentucky, Juzang needed last season to erase some of the bad memories from a shaky freshman year. He may be hesitant to test fate with a third year in college, and his decision may be the most anticipated of anyone in the entire draft pool. Meanwhile, Chris Smith (NR) and Cody Riley (NR) join Juzang on the early-entry list, but both are longshots to actually be drafted. That said, Smith already withdrew from the draft once before and ended up subsequently tearing his ACL, so he may be ready to just move on from the college game altogether.
Prediction: Juzang and Smith stay in the draft; Riley returns to UCLA.
West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers are in a prickly spot at the moment, with two of their top players from a year ago currently weighing their pro options. The situation is actually slightly improved from earlier in the month, if you can believe it, with Taz Sherman taking his name out of the pool and announcing his return to Morgantown. While that decision could be a harbinger of good news, it’s too soon to celebrate a full family reunion at WVU. Dynamic guard Miles McBride (No. 36) and sharpshooter Sean McNeil (NR) could still go pro, though it’s likely that the former will be drafted. The real question comes down to McBride, who currently projects as a first-round pick on NBADraft.net. Whether you call him “Deuce” or “Miles McBuckets,” if you’re a fan of the Mountaineers, you just hope his name isn’t called on Draft Day.
Prediction: McBride stays in the draft; McNeil returns to West Virginia.
With just over three weeks before the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline, expect to see a lot of these players make announcements regarding their futures once the official NBA Draft Combine invitation list is released.
Until then, be kind to your fingernails if you’re a fan of one of the teams listed here. You’ll know your team’s fate soon enough.
Header image courtesy of Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images.