For the second year in a row, this time as the defending national champion, Kansas forward Jalen Wilson has pulled his name from the NBA draft in favor of a return to KU.
Wilson unveiled his plans just before 5 p.m. Wednesday with a simple post on social media that read “I’m back.”
Wilson added, “My path has been different,” and his latest decision certainly supports that.
Not to be outdone, Kansas coach Bill Self responded in two words of his own when asked by The Wall Street Journal about his reaction to the news.
“I’m very happy,” Self said.
Later, with a KU press release, Self expanded on his ideas.
“We were all very excited to hear from Jalen and his family today that he will be back in school for the 2022-23 campaign,” Self said in a release. It gave him the feedback he needed to make an educated decision. We are proud of the maturity Jalen has shown in making decisions and are very excited to put him in a position where he can increase his chances of not just playing, but having a long career in the NBA. ”
Wilson is now the rare college basketball player to test NBA waters twice and opt to return to school twice.
The 6-foot-8 Denton, Texas native will enter his junior season as the most experienced player on KU’s roster to date. He’s started most of the past two seasons and played a key role in KU’s April 2022 national championship run.
Wilson is averaging 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Jayhawks in 2021-22, just a few rebounds shy of averaging a double-double for the entire NCAA tournament.
With three of the other four starters from the KU National Champions moving on, Wilson returns with point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. as the centerpiece of the team next season.
“Our team is better today,” Self said in the release. “Like Jaylen last year, he’s just scratching the surface of the whole player he can be for our program. I look forward to him and Dajuan (Harris) being veterans and leaders of our program for this team intangible assets.”
After a stellar few days at the G League Elite Camp in Chicago in mid-May, Wilson was invited to stay at NBA Combine. He excels in the combo — especially in the scrimmage — but still can’t crack the 58th overall mock draft posted by some of the top draft analysts.
At the time, the best-case scenario for Wilson seemed to be a two-way contract with an NBA team and its G-League affiliates, but now in college track and field, the chances of name, image and likeness are outweighed At six figures, Wilson could make more money by going back to school than by switching careers.
He now has a year to play, to jump into the NBA, or to test the waters again next season.
Wilson’s decision came about two hours before Texas Tech’s Kevin McCullar Jr. announced he also planned to come to KU.
“I’m Jayhawk,” the 6-foot-6, 210-pound wing wrote on Twitter just before 7 p.m. “Goodbye Lawrence! #RockChalk.”
A few weeks ago, McCuller promised KU that he would join the Jayhawks if he dropped out of the NBA draft. In the time between committing and quitting, McCuller worked out across the country and met with NBA teams to discuss his future.
“It’s definitely tiring at times,” McCuller told The Wall Street Journal shortly after his name was dropped from the draft. “It’s been tough, but it’s been a great process and I enjoy every minute of it. But it’s nice to know where I’m going now.”
That place, of course, is Lawrence and McCuller, from San Antonio, Texas, who said he plans to be on campus in time for summer training to begin on Monday. The first session of KU Summer School begins on Tuesday.
KU now has all 13 scholarships for the 2022-23 season. Many college basketball analysts expect the Jayhawks to top the preseason, ranging from No. 5 to No. 10 as they publicly defend their 2022 national title.
Over the course of the process or Wednesday night, the challenge wasn’t far off McCuller’s mind.
“We’re very excited, very excited,” he said of himself and his family. “They’re just happy for me. You know, I’m one step closer to my ultimate goal of playing in the NBA, but it’s great to play in Kansas and I’m excited to try and win another national championship.”