It’s official: Russ Smith is returning to Louisville for his senior season

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Louisville will be Russdiculous for one more season, as Russ Smith officially announced that he will be returning to campus to play his senior season for the Cardinals.

Smith and his father originally said after the national title game that he would be entering the NBA Draft, but in the weeks since then, the younger Smith has had a change of heart.

“If I would have left, I think I would have been shooting myself in the foot,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think I was mature enough.”

“As much smoke as you thought I was blowing to people, I really didn’t know. I was really unsure until I woke up this morning.”

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

I’m glad that Russ is back, as it’s not a secret that he’s one of my favorite players in the country to watch. That said, I’m not convinced that this is the best decision for him from a professional standpoint. I don’t think that his stock can get any higher, and the improvements that he’s going to have to make if he wants to convince NBA scouts that he’s worth a first round pick — better decision making, playing the point more, improved perimeter shooting — are precisely the kind of adjustments that will hurt him playing in Rick Pitino’s system.

But if Smith doesn’t think that he’s ready for the lifestyle of being a professional basketball player, than he made the right decision to return to school. He’ll be leaving with a degree, and frankly, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter when you leave school. If you’re an NBA player, you’re an NBA player.

The bigger story here is that Smith’s return all of a sudden makes Louisville a national title contender again. Their back court is absurdly loaded. Smith will team up with JuCo transfer and former top 50 recruit Chris Jones as well as talented freshman Terry Rozier, who could have contributed to Louisville this season had he not needed to prep a year. Kevin Ware should be returning at some point next season, while Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear will also return.

With Chane Behanan coming back to school as well, the most important player on Louisville for next season is going to be Montrezl Harrell. The big fella is long and explosive and aggressive, and his had stretches this season where he was dominant. But he also went through bouts of inconsistency, the typical growing pains of a sophomore. If he comes a guy that can averages 12 points and eight boards, blocking a couple of shots and spending the season as a dominant presence in the paint, Louisville will once again be a national title contender.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Shayok and Reuter transferring from Virginia

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Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.

Marial Shayok and Jerred Shayok will both transfer out of the program, the school said.

“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”

Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.

Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.

In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”

Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.

His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

Porter, Jr. will ask for Washington release

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There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.

Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”

The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.

Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.

Calipari signs two-year extension with Kentucky

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Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.

The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.

“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.

“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”

Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.

Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.

Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.

“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”

The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

Louisville’s Mitchell declaring for draft, won’t hire an agent

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Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell is the latest to decide to see what the NBA might offer.

“I have decided to test the waters and not hire an agent!” Mitchell wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday. “I am excited to work out this summer for teams and hopefully participate in the NBA combine! I want it to be clear I have not decided to leave Louisville!”

Mitchell, who is expected to be joined by dozens of players, is taking advantage of new NCAA rules that allow him to work out for teams and attend the NBA draft combine before making a decision on whether to remain in the draft and return to school.

Players have until May 24 to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

Mitchell averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore, shooting 40.8 percent overall and 35.4 percent on 3-point attempts.

The 6-foot-3 guard is projected as a potential first-round pick, but should he return, the Cardinals would project as one of the top teams in the country with nearly the entire core returning from this year’s 25-9 squad.