Next week’s G League Elite Camp and NBA scouting combine provide a huge opportunity for players to prove themselves in front of NBA decision-makers. In turn, it’s a critical week for college basketball programs hoping their star players will come back for another season before turning pro. Some players testing the draft waters have maintained their eligibility only as a formality, but several stars’ decisions could go either way and have a major impact on the college hoops landscape for 2022–23. Here’s a look at some of the highest-profile names whose decisions could make (or break) their NCAA teams for next season.
Jaylin Williams, Arkansas
Williams keyed a midseason turnaround at Arkansas that led to the Razorbacks’ second consecutive trip to the Elite Eight. In the season’s final 22 games, which Arkansas went 18–4 in, Williams averaged 13.5 points and nearly 11 rebounds while also making an impact defensively thanks to his knack for taking charges. And while the Hogs have seemingly prepared in case of Williams’s departure by adding three big men from the transfer portal, Arkansas’s chances of being the No. 1 team in the country next season likely hinge on Williams returning to school. The forward received an NBA combine invite this week.
Christian Braun and Jalen Wilson, Kansas
SI Big Board ranking: Braun—53, Wilson—NR
Two starters from the Jayhawks’ national championship team, Braun and Wilson are going through the draft process while maintaining their eligibility. Braun has been invited to the combine, while Wilson earned a spot at the G League Elite Camp. Braun would likely be a preseason All-American should he return to school, becoming the No. 1 option for KU offensively with Ochai Agbaji graduating and turning pro. If Braun doesn’t head back to Lawrence, there will be even more pressure on freshman Gradey Dick, a five-star recruit expected to make an immediate impact for the Jayhawks. Meanwhile, Wilson would be one of the best returning players in the Big 12 should he go back to school.
David Roddy, Colorado State
SI Big Board ranking: 36
Roddy shot up draft boards during a remarkable season at Colorado State, where he averaged more than 19 points, 7.0 rebounds and shot 44% from three for a Rams team that earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. He’s one of the more distinct players in the draft because of his stocky 252-pound, 6'5" frame, with impressive passing skills and versatility combined with that lethal outside shot. But those physical limitations and questions about his defense at the next level leave him as a question mark heading into combine week. If he shows well, he could move into the first-round conversation. At that point, it would be hard to see him coming back to Colorado State for his senior season. But a return to CSU would place the Rams in virtually every preseason top 25 and earn Roddy a spot on most All-American lists, with a chance to rise even higher up draft boards in 2023.
Baylor Scheierman, Creighton
SI Big Board ranking: 87
Scheierman committed to Creighton as a transfer from South Dakota State earlier this month, giving the Bluejays a strong case to enter next season as a top-five team. But that ranking is predicated at least partially on Scheierman spurning the pros and matriculating at Creighton. His game fits exactly what the Bluejays need: a big wing with elite shot-making ability and some skill as a passer. That’s also a valued skill set in NBA circles, which earned him a G League Elite Camp invitation. It seems likely he’ll play college basketball next season, but electing not to would be a major blow to a loaded Creighton roster.
Jake LaRavia, Wake Forest
SI Big Board ranking: 34
One of the biggest risers in the pre-draft process to date, LaRavia becoming an unexpected one-and-done contributor at Wake Forest would be a blow to the program Steve Forbes is building in Winston-Salem. The forward is an impressive prospect thanks to his skill level and defensive instincts at 6'9", and he was a huge reason Wake exceeded expectations this season in Forbes’s second season. If LaRavia does in fact stay in the draft, the Demon Deacons will be in something of a rebuild yet again. But another year with LaRavia in tow would give Wake a chance to get to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017.
Kris Murray, Iowa
SI Big Board ranking: 37
Murray’s twin brother Keegan is a potential top-five pick in this year’s draft, but Kris Murray had a breakout season in Iowa City and is now on NBA radars after averaging more than 9.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in under 20 minutes. Kris Murray isn’t the shot-maker Keegan is, but his versatility on both ends of the floor makes him an intriguing prospect to monitor. Kris Murray’s draft announcement made clear his plan was to return to school for one more season, and it’s quite possible he could shoot up NBA boards with a big season in 2022–23.
Marcus Sasser, Houston
SI Big Board ranking: NR
Sasser has a lot to prove at the G League Elite Camp after missing most of the 2021–22 season with a foot injury. Though undersized, Sasser’s shooting ability both off the catch and the bounce is among the best in his class, connecting on 44% from deep on nearly four makes per game in his 12 contests last season. He was a key part of Houston’s run to the Final Four in ’21 and, like most from Kelvin Sampson’s program, is a fierce defensive player. With Sasser back, Houston would be among the nation’s best teams in ’22–23.
Drew Timme and Julian Strawther, Gonzaga
SI Big Board ranking: Timme–86, Strawther–69
Gonzaga has finished No. 1 or No. 2 in KenPom in each of the last four seasons, but the Bulldogs’ hopes of doing so for a fifth straight year likely hinge on the return of these two stars. Timme didn’t quite live up to the National Player of the Year hype heaped upon him in the preseason, but he’s still one of the best big men in college basketball and is virtually unstoppable on the block. Of course, his lack of mobility makes him a questionable fit at the next level, just like many other back-to-the-basket bigs in the college game today. Strawther is a more seamless fit in the pros as a smooth 6'7" wing who knocks down threes at a high level, but the Puerto Rican has more room to grow and could blossom into the next star wing in Spokane with another year of seasoning.
The Zags are in the mix for high-profile transfers like Tyrese Hunter (Iowa State) and Kevin McCullar (Texas Tech), so the roster is far from set. But the returns of Timme and Strawther would, at minimum, give the Zags a clear path to being among the nation’s elite again in 2022–23.
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
SI Big Board ranking: 85
An Indiana native, Jackson-Davis finally led the Hoosiers to the NCAA tournament in his junior season, another extremely productive one for the former elite recruit. Now he’s testing the draft process for the first time in his career. Jackson-Davis’s inability to stretch the floor and his somewhat undersized frame make him a questionable fit at the next level, where his ability to carve out a role may be defined by his defense. The big man should also be well-positioned to profit through NIL this season should he return to college, where he’d again be the centerpiece for one of college basketball’s biggest brands.
Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan, Michigan
SI Big Board ranking: Diabate–62, Houstan–64
Michigan already got its biggest news of the offseason when it got Hunter Dickinson back for a third season with the Wolverines, but these two lingering decisions could determine how serious a contender Juwan Howard’s team ends up being in the Big Ten title race. Diabate has elite physical tools and showed flashes of brilliance in his freshman season, and he has significant breakout potential should he come back for a second year in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, Houstan had a rather disappointing season despite averaging more than 10 points per game. Still, with great size and an excellent stroke from beyond the arc, there’s still upside to be tapped into with him. Either or both returning to school would be a boost for Howard’s bunch. Houstan turning down a trip to the NBA combine seems like bad news for Michigan’s hopes of bringing him back, though.
Adam Flagler, Baylor
SI Big Board ranking: 82
Flagler stepped into a larger role last season in Waco after playing a more complimentary role on the 2020–21 team that won the national championship. He’s somewhat undersized for a true shooting guard, but Flagler is a high-level shot-maker with impressive defensive chops who has converted nearly 40% from deep in his career. There’s a strong case to be made that he was Baylor’s best player last season, and bringing him back to pair with elite freshman recruit Keyonte George in the backcourt would be dangerous in the Big 12.
Trevor Keels, Duke
SI Big Board ranking: 25
It’s hard for prospects to turn down the pros if they’re set to be a first-round pick, and that’s likely the predicament Keels finds himself in heading into combine week. Keels could certainly boost his stock with another year at Duke in a more featured role offensively, especially if he shoots the ball better from deep than he did in his first season with the Blue Devils. His return would further inject talent into new coach Jon Scheyer’s first team, a group that already includes one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Still, the safety net of a first-round guaranteed contract likely awaits Keels unless he shows poorly next week.
Justin Lewis, Marquette
SI Big Board ranking: 33
Lewis put it all together in his sophomore season at Marquette, emerging into one of the Big East’s best players thanks to his inside-out offensive game and toughness on the boards. His eventual NBA role will be as a “big wing” who can guard multiple positions and stretch the defense. A return to Marquette would likely make him the preseason Player of the Year in the conference and give the Golden Eagles a case to be in most early-season top 25s, but his skill set is valuable enough that he’ll have suitors in the top half of the second round and could play his way into the first with a strong week.
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