Were Cody Zeller and James Michael McAdoo smart to return to school?

4 Comments

In the five days since Thursday’s NBA Draft, perhaps the biggest talking point has been the fall of Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones.

The consensus seems to be that the two cost themselves a great deal of money by returning to school. Considered by many to be locks for the lottery — if not the top five — after their freshmen campaigns, the two players returned to school and had, frankly, incredibly similar seasons. The result of those seasons combined with injury concerns that leaked out prior to the draft were that Sully fell to the 21st pick and PJ3 dropped all the way to 28th.

(It wasn’t all bad, however. Sullinger landed in Boston, where he’ll get a chance to learn behind a roster full of former all-stars and future hall-of-famers in the same place that made Big Baby a quality NBA player. Jones will be playing in Oklahoma City, which is about as ideal of a landing spot as there is for a first round pick. There is a legitimate argument to make that while they lost out on some first round money, they set themselves up for a bigger second contract.)

The same question can be raised with Harrison Barnes and Terrence Jones. Barnes fell slightly from being the potential No. 1 pick to No. 7, while Jones went from being a late lottery pick to the 18th pick. Returning to school likely cost them some money, as well.

The question that Mike DeCourcy asked today was, given the result of returning to school for Sullinger and Jones, did James Michael McAdoo and Cody Zeller make the correct decision to keep their names out of the 2012 NBA Draft?:

So there’s a natural question about what their experience should teach Zeller and North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo, each of whom was regarded as a lottery pick following his freshman season but chose to stick around college a second year.

The answer: not a thing.

In my opinion, the situation is different for McAdoo and Zeller. McAdoo was projected as a late lottery pick, meaning that with a successful season as a sophomore, he could potentially climb up into the top five. Monetarily speaking it is worth the risk to return to school. A fall to the late first round would not be a major hit financially, while climbing up into the top five could double or triple the money he would have been guaranteed. Beyond that, the fact that McAdoo will have a chance to be UNC’s featured big man after playing behind Tyler Zeller and John Henson should set him up for a breakout season.

Zeller, on the other hand, had a chance to be a top five pick. He could still end up being a top five pick after this season, and based on the way that his workouts were described by Tom Crean — apparently, he’s up to 240 lbs with a vertical of 39″ while benching 185 lbs 20 times — that probably won’t change. And to his credit, Zeller seems to be making a decision based on the fact that he’s not ready to “pay bills and own a house”, which is probably smart given the fact that he’s not yet allowed to legally drink.

But what Zeller needs to be aware of if that teams won’t be as accepting of his flaws after a second year in school. Instead of focusing on what he’s capable of doing, the focus will be on what he’s not able to do.

There is no question that it is a risk, but if it is one that Zeller is willing to take, who are we to argue with him?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.