The 2021 NBA draft withdrawal deadline came and went Wednesday, giving men’s college basketball teams more clarity on their rosters for the upcoming 2021–22 season. With a loaded draft class; extra eligibility due to the pandemic; and name, image and likeness now in play; several significant stars who were on the fence elected to return to their respective programs.
Not every team got good news; however, and there were a few surprise exits. Which programs’ title hopes were bolstered with this year’s decisions and which diminished? Our biggest winners and losers are below—note that teams weren’t penalized for players who were expected to leave.
UCLA is going to be dangerous next season. Johnny Juzang and Cody Riley both withdrew from the draft Wednesday, meaning Mick Cronin brings back nearly every single member of a roster that made it to the men’s Final Four in 2021 (only senior Chris Smith left). Juzang received an invite to the NBA combine and was a potential second-round pick, and UCLA will greatly benefit from getting the NCAA tournament star back. He averaged 16.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists last season, putting college basketball on notice with a combined 57 points in the Elite Eight and Final Four.
The Bruins also bring in some new additions that make this team even more of a threat to the rest of college hoops. Five-star Peyton Watson and Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson join UCLA as pieces that can contribute right away, and four-star Will McClendon, who is ranked No. 60 in the 2021 class by Sports Illustrated, will be in the mix as well.
Marquette was already facing a lot of change this offseason after replacing head coach Steve Wojciechowski with Shaka Smart and losing a slew of players to the transfer portal. Following the deadline, the program will also be without its two leading scorers from a season ago. Guard D.J. Carton declared and signed with an agent in late April. Forward Dawson Garcia withdrew from the draft Tuesday, but he announced two days later he would be transferring to North Carolina instead of returning to Marquette.
The Golden Eagles also lost their third-, fourth- and fifth-leading scorers to the portal, with Koby McEwen transferring to Weber State, Jamal Cain joining Oakland and Theo John signing with Duke. The team returns only two players who saw significant time on the court last season (Justin Lewis and Greg Elliott). While Marquette picked up its own transfers in Maryland’s Darryl Morsell, Oklahoma’s Kur Kuath and Clemson’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper, that won’t be even close to enough to make up for losing more than 80% of its scoring, 76% of its rebounding and 91% of its assist production from a 2020–21 season in which it struggled to a 13–14 record in a weaker than normal Big East.
Winner: St. John’s
The expectations for St. John’s rose significantly this week, thanks to Julian Champagnie announcing his withdrawal from the draft Monday. His brother, Justin, who went to Pittsburgh, hired an agent in May and will be turning pro. Julian received an invite to the combine and likely could have been a mid-to-late second-round pick, but instead he’ll return to St. John’s to build upon a sophomore campaign that saw him named a first team All-Big East selection and the co-winner of the Big East Most Improved Player award.
In addition to returning their leader in points (19.8), rebounds (7.4) and steals (1.4) from a season ago, the Red Storm picked up a key transfer in Hofstra’s Tareq Coburn. The guard, who committed to the program on July 3, averaged 15.1 points on 39.6% shooting from beyond the arc, along with 3.8 rebounds, as a senior last year. With guard Montez Mathis joining the team from Rutgers as another key transfer (alongside Purdue’s Aaron Wheeler and Fordham’s Joel Soriano in the frontcourt), St. John’s might just have the boost it needs to make the field of 64 for the first time since 2014–15.
Before the G League Elite Camp and NBA combine, 6' 6" wing Aaron Wiggins was nowhere to be seen on mock drafts or big board rankings. He told the media that he would base much of his decision over whether he had a shot at being selected in the first round, and while the decision was up in the air, the assumption was that he would return to Maryland. But on Monday, the 22-year-old announced he would be forgoing the rest of his eligibility.
The Terps also lost Darryl Morsell, the reigning Big Ten Defender of the Year who was regarded as the “heart and soul” of the team. With a fifth year of eligibility due to the pandemic, he left all of his options open and decided to transfer to Marquette after getting NBA feedback. Though Wiggins and Morsell are significant losses that likely bump the team from a national title contender, head coach Mark Turgeon is still expected to field a talented unit. Eric Ayala, who led all scorers with 15.1 points per game in 2020–21, is returning after testing the draft waters, and Maryland brings in transfers Qudus Wahab (Georgetown) and Fatts Russell (Rhode Island).
Everything has fallen into place quite perfectly for Bill Self over the past week, with the trio of Jalen Wilson, Ochai Agbaji and Remy Martin all withdrawing from draft consideration. Agbaji, who averaged 14.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists last season, was the biggest decision of the group. He received an invite to the combine but wasn’t able to elevate his stock. The same held true for Wilson at the G League Elite Camp.
Now, Kansas returns four of its five starters from a season ago along with the addition of Martin, a two-time All-Pac-12 first team honoree at Arizona State. The Jayhawks also bring in four four-star freshmen, highlighted by top 50 players Zach Clemence and KJ Adams. The talent is there for Self to lead his team back to the top of the Big 12, with hopes of getting the program past the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2018.
Loser: Ohio State
Duane Washington Jr. was expected by many to return to Ohio State next season, but he decided to stay in the draft after doing wonders for his stock at the G League Elite Camp and NBA combine. Washington was a third team All-Big Ten selection in 2020–21, averaging a team-high 16.4 points on 37.4% shooting from deep, along with 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
Though E.J. Liddell will return after testing the draft, losing Washington does significantly temper expectations for the Buckeyes this season. Guard CJ Walker declared for the draft as well, though that was a much more expected move. Ohio State brings in transfers Joey Brunk (Indiana) and Jamari Wheeler (Penn State), which will surely help, but without Washington they go from what was thought to be a top 10 preseason team to a top 25 squad.
Winner: Arizona State
Throughout last season, Marcus Bagley was widely assumed to be a future first-round draft pick—surely, Arizona State wouldn’t get him back. But the forward’s stock tumbled after he didn’t compete in scrimmages at the NBA combine and had a bad showing at his pro day, leading him to withdraw from the draft Wednesday. He was in the transfer portal and would have been a huge get for any program, so the Sun Devils got a big win when he announced Thursday he’ll be returning to Tempe.
Bagley played only 12 games while dealing with multiple injuries in 2020–21, but he impressed in his time on the court, averaging 10.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Arizona State has had an offseason full of turnover after finishing with an 11–14 record, with nine new players added to the roster amid numerous departures. While it remains unclear how well Bobby Hurley’s new group will mesh, the return of Bagley is a welcome surprise that instantly makes the Sun Devils better.
Loser: West Virginia
West Virginia saw its expectations dampen notably this week after Miles McBride announced he won’t be returning to Morgantown. McBride was invited to the NBA combine, where he managed to impress scouts and improve his stock, leading to his departure. He led the Mountaineers in points (15.9), assists (4.8), steals (1.9) and three-point percentage (41.4%) last season. Head coach Bob Huggins will also be without his second-leading scorer and top rebounder Derek Culver, who signed with an agent a few months ago.
Michigan is in prime position to repeat its success in the Big Ten after Hunter Dickinson and transfer DeVante’ Jones both withdrew from the NBA draft this week. Dickinson was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season and will once again anchor the paint for the Wolverines in 2021–22, while Jones joins the program after being named the Sun Belt Player of the Year at Coastal Carolina, where he averaged 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.8 steals per game. Both received invites to the G League Elite Camp but weren’t able to improve their stock enough there.
Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers and Chaundee Brown all left the program for the draft months ago, but with Dickinson back and an abundance of talented auditions, Michigan looks dangerous. Head coach Juwan Howard brings in the top recruiting class in the country, highlighted by five-star forwards Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate, who are ranked by SI as the No. 8 and 9 best prospects in the class, and fellow McDonald’s All-American guard Kobe Bufkin.
Winner: Texas Tech
The Texas Tech program has had a less-than-ideal offseason with head coach Chris Beard’s leaving to take the Texas job in April, but the Red Raiders got a major boost Wednesday when Terrence Shannon Jr. withdrew from the draft. Shannon, who averaged 12.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists last season, was projected as a late first-round to early second-round pick in recent months and will look to improve his stock this upcoming season.
The guard’s return is great news for new head coach Mark Adams, who lost Mac McClung to the draft (as expected) and had key guards Kyler Edwards and Micah Peavy transfer. Shannon will anchor the team alongside returning starters Kevin McCullar and Marcus Santos-Silva, vastly improving the Red Raiders’ chances at an NCAA tournament berth.
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