NBA Draft Deadline Winners and Losers: Alabama a Contender With Mark Sears, Kansas Loses Johnny Furphy

The NCAA’s withdrawal deadline for June’s draft passed Wednesday, and men’s college basketball teams have more clarity on where they stand heading into the 2024–25 season.
Alabama Crimson Tide guard Mark Sears will return to school for another season instead of remaining in the 2024 NBA draft.
Alabama Crimson Tide guard Mark Sears will return to school for another season instead of remaining in the 2024 NBA draft. / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the biggest names in men’s college basketball spent the last two months in limbo, weighing pro and college options down to the NCAA’s NBA draft withdrawal deadline Wednesday. In all, most of the big names in the sport elected to return to school, aided by massive NIL packages that have ballooned in recent months compared to previous years. That, plus this being the final season of players with a bonus year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has rosters around the sport looking loaded. 

Here’s a look at some of the biggest winners and losers from the decision deadline. 

Winners 

Alabama Crimson Tide 

One of the biggest 50-50 decisions on deadline day was Tide star guard Mark Sears, who averaged 21 points per game on Alabama’s Final Four team in 2023–24. His Wednesday evening announcement that he’s back with the Tide propels Alabama into a legitimate contender for the No. 1 spot in preseason polls, augmenting loaded portal and high school recruiting classes. And to further boost the Tide’s incredible day, talented rising sophomore Jarin Stevenson decided to return for another year as well, which makes this group even deeper and more talented.

UConn Huskies 

Essential in the Huskies’ quest for a third straight national championship was the return of Alex Karaban. With UConn’s four other starters already turning pro, Karaban’s return looms large, giving the Huskies a proven star and one of the better shooters in college basketball. Karaban could likely have gotten drafted in the early-to-middle part of the second round and earned a guaranteed contract, but instead is coming back to finish his degree and take a crack at yet another title. He should be one of the best players in the country next season and could play his way into the back end of the first round of next year’s draft with a big junior season. 

Arizona Wildcats 

The Wildcats had a good offseason in the portal, but much of the work done by Tommy Lloyd & Co. this spring seemed built around a potential Caleb Love return. Arizona got confirmation Wednesday that Love is headed back to school, a massive addition to an already impressive roster. Despite his flaws in shot selection at times, Love is one of the best guards in the country, fresh off averaging better than 18 points, four rebounds and three assists per game on a team that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. We’ll see if he can lift the Wildcats to a Final Four for the first time since 2001.

Love staying at Arizona adds to an already impressive roster for the Wildcats.
Love staying at Arizona adds to an already impressive roster for the Wildcats. / Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake’s hopes of its first NCAA tournament berth under Steve Forbes hinged on Hunter Sallis withdrawing from the draft. Sallis, who starred for the Demon Deacons in his first season in the program after transferring from the Gonzaga Bulldogs, decided to come back for one more year, giving a massive lift to a Wake team that came up just short of the Big Dance a year ago. Sallis should be one of the nation’s best guards, and the Deacs should be tougher on the interior this season after adding transfers Tre’Von Spillers (Appalachian State Mountaineers), Omaha Biliew (Iowa State Cyclones) and Churchill Abass (DePaul Blue Demons).

Iowa Hawkeyes 

Payton Sandfort, the second-leading returning scorer in the Big Ten, took his decision down to the wire. Eventually though, the sharpshooting wing elected to return to school, providing Iowa a boost it desperately needed heading into 2024–25. Sandfort should be in for a massive senior season, and the Hawkeyes have more talent around him this year with young players Owen Freeman and Josh Dix set to break out and transfer forward Seydou Traore expected to make an impact.

Kentucky Wildcats 

Kentucky didn’t have any players on the fence about returning, but was as big a beneficiary as anyone of draft withdrawals after top transfer wing Jaxson Robinson simultaneously withdrew from the draft and announced his commitment to Kentucky. Robinson had long been speculated about as a potential Kentucky target given he played for new Wildcats coach Mark Pope at BYU, but was seen as a true 50-50 to stay in the draft or turn pro. Plus, Robinson had made clear that his recruitment was open to other schools than just Kentucky. Winning this battle helps boost Pope’s team into top 25 consideration entering his first year on the job and gives them the high-level wing they were looking for. 

Losers

Memphis Tigers 

Memphis had been optimistic it could get David Jones back for another year. Instead, the Tigers’ star wing elected to stay in the draft Wednesday afternoon, a significant hit to Memphis’s hopes of getting back to the NCAA tournament after missing the party in 2024. Jones averaged nearly 22 points per game a season ago, but struggled at the NBA draft combine and measured under 6'4", less-than-ideal size for a wing. He likely won’t be drafted higher than the late second round. Memphis has done a nice job in the portal, but replacing Jones’s production won’t be easy … especially this late in the cycle. 

Kansas Jayhawks

It always seemed like a long shot Kansas would retain talented freshman wing Johnny Furphy, but the Jayhawks were one of the few teams not to hold onto its stay-or-go pieces on decision day. Furphy’s stock seems to bounce somewhere between mid-to-late first round and early second round, but his meteoric rise as a prospect from playing in high school events last summer to being sure of his name being called on draft night this year is remarkable. Kansas, for what it’s worth, is still well-positioned with wing adds like Rylan Griffen and AJ Storr.  

Furphy chose to stay in the NBA draft and is likely to be selected mid-to-late first round or early second round.
Furphy chose to stay in the NBA draft and is likely to be selected mid-to-late first round or early second round. / Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco Dons

The San Francisco program has been knocking on the door to break into the true top tier of the WCC. Its hopes of a breakthrough in 2024–25 took a hit when star forward Jonathan Mogbo stayed in the draft. Mogbo is a unique player, a point forward with elite athleticism who was the centerpiece of what San Francisco did on both ends. Replacing him, especially this late, is nearly impossible. 

The Transfer Portal

While draft decisions did provide clarity for a lot of teams and help round out some rosters, there are still some high-profile holes to fill around the country. And while, as expected, names like Coleman Hawkins and Ugonna Onyenso elected to stay in school and zoom in on portal options, a few big names like Cam Christie and Jaylen Wells decided to remain in the draft. Add in a few commitments coinciding with draft decisions like JT Toppin’s at Texas Tech and Baba Miller’s at Florida Atlantic, and the market of still-available players is a bit more depleted than expected heading into June.


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Kevin Sweeney

KEVIN SWEENEY

Kevin Sweeney is a staff writer at Sports Illustrated covering college basketball and the NBA Draft, and is an analyst for The Field of 68. A graduate of Northwestern, Kevin is a voter for the Naismith Trophy and is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).