For players like Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, the decision to leave college early is an easy one. Of course, not everyone is Okafor or Towns. The “should I stay or should I go” question is a lot tougher for many players to answer. It’s so challenging, in fact, that a bevy of very talented players still have not yet made up their minds. We look at the 10 most intriguing below (listed alphabetically; class indicates the year just completed; all draft projections according to Draft Express).
But first, a note: It must be said that these decisions belong to the players, and the players alone. It might be fun for us to debate whether a guy should go pro or stay in college for another year, but these players will and should do what is in their own best interests. No one should judge that. This simply looks at whether or not a player would be better off, purely from a basketball standpoint, from getting another year of seasoning in college.
Junior, forward, Notre DameStats: 12.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 61.9 FG%
Projected pick: UndraftedAuguste was one of the best players on the floor in Notre Dame’s near upset of Kentucky in the Elite Eight. That game, in which he scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds against one of the best frontcourts in the country, placed him on the radar of NBA teams, but he still isn’t a projected draft pick. Another strong season in South Bend could change that. Verdict: He should stay.
Sophomore, guard, ProvidenceStats: 15.6 ppg, 7.5 apg, 5.5 rpgProjected pick: First round, 14th overallDunn had a monster season, taking the Friars back to the NCAA tournament and sharing Big East Player of the Year honors with Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono. The success was a long time coming, as Dunn dealt with multiple shoulder injuries during each of his first two years in Providence. Dunn has good size for a point guard, and is quick enough off the bounce to get into the lane in the NBA. Couple that with that injury history, as well as a first-round projection, and Dunn’s decision appears to be a layup. Verdict: He should go.
Junior, guard, IndianaStats: 16.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 41.6 3P%Projected pick: Second round, 41st overallIn an up-and-down season for the Hoosiers, it always seemed to be Ferrell who created a big shot and stepped up when Indiana needed it the most. Unfortunately for Ferrell, this draft is deep on point guards, with Dunn, Tyus Jones, Emmanuel Mudiay, Cameron Payne, D’Angelo Russell and Delon Wright. Ferrell could easily get lost in that shuffle. He's undersized at 6-feet, so it wouldn’t hurt to spend one more year in Bloomington proving he can be a floor general. Verdict: He should stay.
Junior, center, PurdueStats: 11.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.8 bpgProjected pick: Second round, 48th overallHammons finally became the player this year everyone in West Lafayette has been waiting for since he arrived on campus three years ago. At 7-feet and 260 pounds, there’s no doubt he’d get drafted. At the same time, he just now seems to be understanding how to play offense in the post, and carries a mid-second-round projection. He can be a scorer out of the post in the NBA, but there’s still more work to be done. If he can take another step forward in college next season, he could be a first-rounder in 2016. Verdict: He should stay.
Junior, guard, OklahomaStats: 17.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.9 apgProjected pick: Second round, 43rd overallHield was the Player of the Year in a strong Big 12 conference, leading the Sooners in scoring and taking them to the Sweet 16. Draft Express has him coming off the board in the first part of the second round, but there are other services out there that label him a late-first rounder. He’s a capable scorer and can be a second ball handler at the 2-guard, but he’s also undersized for his position. One more dominant year in the Big 12, however, could propel him up draft boards in 2016. Verdict: He should stay.
Getty ImageFreshman, forward, ArizonaStats: 13.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 steals/gameProjected pick: First round, 9th overallJohnson was an engine at both ends of the floor for the Wildcats, which cruised to the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles but again fell just short of the Final Four. Everyone agrees that he’d be an easy lottery pick if he declares for the draft, and he could potentially work his way into the top five. Johnson’s defense is NBA-ready, as he could immediately become one of the better wing defenders in the league. With his athleticism, teams will be willing to bet that his offense will grow with their teaching. Verdict: He should go.
Junior, guard, Michigan
Stats: 14.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 40.5 3P%
Projected pick: First round, 25th overall LeVert was supposed to be the man for the Wolverines this year, but a foot injury suffered in January ended his season. It was the same foot he injured in the summer, and that makes the decision even more challenging for him. He projects as a late-first-round selection, thanks in part to the fact that he has the size and ballhandling skills to play point guard, shooting guard, or small forward. His versatility will make him an asset as a rookie. Plus, can he really risk returning to college and injuring the foot a third time? Verdict: He should go.
Freshman, center, Utah
Stats: 9.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Projected pick: First round, 11th overall Poeltl came on strong in the second half of the season, helping Utah reach its first Sweet 16 in 10 years. He’s a true 7-footer, and that’s going to draw the eye of every single NBA talent evaluator. They’d likely rather have him in their building today than tomorrow, as well. His stock probably can’t get any higher, with his projection right now placing him in the late lottery. Verdict: He should go.
Junior, guard, CaliforniaStats: 17.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.0 apg
Projected pick: Second round, 37th overallPlaying on a bad team out West pushed Wallace under the radar, but he was one of the best players in the Pac-12, and the Bears failings can’t be placed at his feet. Like Ferrell, he has to gage exactly where he’ll measure up against the other point guards in this draft. Unlike Ferrell, he’s 6’5” and 200 pounds, and can play some 2-guard at the next level. He projects as an early-second-round pick, but he could jump into the first round by impressing in his workouts. Verdict: He should go.
Junior, forward, Gonzaga
Stats: 16.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 46.6 3P%
Projected pick: Undrafted Wiltjer had a phenomenal season for the Zags, with his offense carrying them to within a game of the Final Four. He’s going to be a stretch four at the next level, and NBA front offices may want to see him shoot it as well from distance for one more season before trusting he can be an effective pro. On top of that, he is not projected to hear his name called on draft day. That should be reason enough to spend one more year in Spokane. Verdict: He should stay.