Marcus Smart, Steven Pledger, Romero Osby

If reports are true, good for Marcus Smart for returning to school

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In the most surprising NBA Draft decision this spring, Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart will announce that he is returning to school in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Smart was considered a lock for the lottery. Most NBA front office types looked at him as a lock for the top five. Draft Express has Smart going third in the draft. And he’ll be returning to school. This is, indeed, a shocker.

If true, it’s also sensational news for Oklahoma State fans. All of a sudden, the Cowboys, with Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown back in the fold as well, look like the preseason favorite to win the Big 12.

(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)

You also won’t find me complaining. Smart is a terrific talent on both ends of the floor. He does all the things that make media-types cough up cliches like ‘plays the game the right way’ and ‘leader on the floor’ and ‘winner’. He is all of those things, and he’s also got enough potential to be deserving of that top five pick.

The best part? He’s a better kid off the floor than he is a player on it.

So no, I have no problem watching and covering Smart at the college level for one more season.

But that doesn’t mean that I understand the decision to pass up guaranteed millions to return to school. Look what happened with guys like Cody Zeller, James Michael McAdoo and Perry Jones III. They returned to school and had their games get picked apart by the critics. Perhaps the best example in regards to Smart is Jared Sullinger. Like Smart, Sullinger excelled because of his understanding of the game and excellence in the technical aspects of the sport, not simply because he’s got endless length, athleticism and potential.

Smart is a stocky-but-strong 6-foot-4 point guard that can’t really shoot. Does he have a position at the next level? Is he athletic enough to defend NBA guards? Does he have the kind of ball-handling ability to be a full-time point guard? These are questions that will be dissected over and over again for at least the next 14 months, when the 2014 NBA Draft takes place. That, alone, could end up dropping Smart down draft boards if he doesn’t show improvement in some of his weaker areas next season.

And that’s also before you factor in that the high school class of 2013 is producing a ton of talented NBA prospects. I find it incredibly unlikely that Smart would go top five next year, even if he does have a sensational sophomore season. That’s what happens when you’re looking at a draft class that includes Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and the Harrison twins.

Nerlens Noel is probably going No. 1 this year, but if Smart had gone No. 2 in this year’s draft, he would have made $8.1 million guaranteed in his first two years, with team options for $4.3 million in his third season and $5.5 million in his fourth season.

Look at the 2013-2014 rookie wage scale. The No. 6 pick makes $5.4 million in his first two seasons combined. The No. 10 pick makes $4.0 million.

So from a business and financial perspective, Smart probably isn’t making a smart decision. He could end up costing himself upwards of $10 million by staying in school. That’s an incredible amount of money, enough to keep many generations of Smarts housed and clothed and fed.

But life isn’t always about business and money and finances, and that’s the key thing to remember here. Marcus Smart’s life is about Marcus Smart pursuing what he loves and doing what makes him happy.

If Smart wants to spend another year as a college kid, if he wants to try to end Kansas’ nine-season streak of Big 12 titles and he wants to see if he can bring a Final Four banner to Gallagher-Iba Arena, than good for him. If he doesn’t think he’s ready, both from a maturity and/or a basketball perspective, to handle the rigors and the temptation of the NBA lifestyle, than good for him. A 15 year NBA career will be more lucrative than flaming out after that first contract.

So I’m happy for Smart and the decision that he has reportedly made.

It’s refreshing.

I’m glad that he’s following his heart instead of a dollar sign. I truly am.

And I’m glad that I’ll be able to watch him enjoy the decision that he made for another year.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.

USC’s Nikola Jovanovic not expected to return to USC

Southern California forward Nikola Jovanovic pauses on the court during an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Nikola Jovanovic’s college career has come to a close.

The USC center will not withdraw his name from NBA Draft consideration by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m., a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Jovanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian, averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 boards as a junior with the Trojans.

Jovanovic is not expected to be drafted, which means that Andy Enfield’s club will be losing two players to the professional ranks with eligibility to spare that likely won’t end up on an NBA roster next season. Julian Jacobs, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 boards, signed with an agent back in April.

The Trojans were a top 25 team last season despite many considering them to still be “a year away”. But with two starters departing, the Trojans will be a borderline preseason top 25 team as opposed to a top 15 team.

Marcus Lee withdrawing from the draft, transferring from Kentucky

Kentucky forward Marcus Lee dunks during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game against Indiana in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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For the second time this season and just the sixth time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are losing a player to transfer.

Marcus Lee announced on Wednesday that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but the 6-foot-9 forward will not be returning to Kentucky. He will be transferring out of the program to a new school.

“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”

Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 boards this season, seeing his first major minutes as a member of the Wildcats. But he seemed destined for a bench role if he had opted to return to Kentucky this season as John Calipari has landed a recruiting class that includes five-star freshmen Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.

The tough part?

It does not appear that Lee will be able to finish his degree and be eligible to play immediately next season. He’ll have to sit a year at whatever school he opts to transfer to.

“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”

Lee joins Charles Matthews as members of last year’s Wildcats that are transferring out of the program. Darnell Dodson (Southern Miss), Stacey Poole (Georgia Tech) , Ryan Harrow (Georgia State) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) are the other four players that have transferred.

Isaiah Briscoe to return to Kentucky

Eric Johnson, Isaiah Briscoe
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Isaiah Briscoe announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-3 guard had one of the more difficult decisions to make for players in this year’s draft class. On the one hand, there was a very real chance that he would go through this draft without getting picked. He was a role-playing guard on last year’s team that isn’t a point guard, isn’t big enough to be a two-guard and was a total liability shooting the ball.

But he’s returning to a team that is as loaded as the group that won their first 38 games two years ago, particularly in the back court. He’ll be playing behind De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who both play essentially the same role that Briscoe does: playmaking guards that thrive with the ball in their hands. And since Briscoe can’t shoot, he may not be the best option at the three, where Derek Willis will likely see minutes.

In other words, Briscoe returning to school is essentially a two-year decision.

Kentucky now awaits an announcement from Marcus Lee on whether or not he will be returning to school.

James Blackmon Jr. to return to Indiana, Troy Williams to remain in draft

James Blackmon Jr.
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
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James Blackmon Jr. will be returning to Indiana for his junior season, the school announced on Wednesday morning.

Blackmon missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season following surgery on his knee in December. As a freshman, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and shot 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Indiana now awaits word on the decision that will be made by Troy Williams. A junior swingman, Williams has a shot to be an early second round pick if he opts to stay in the draft. There is a report from the Indy Star that he will keep his name in the draft, but the program has yet to confirm that news.

Losing Williams would hurt, but it’s a loss that Indiana can overcome. The emergence of O.G. Anunoby as a versatile defender means that the Hoosiers have a guy that can be a defensive stopper and can allow them to play small and fast. Anunoby also has not proven to be prone to bouts of poor decision-making, which arguably may make him a better fit.