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Originally published June 1, 2022 at 04:54p.m., updated June 1, 2022 at 07:38p.m.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson withdraws from NBA draft, will return to KU for 2022-23 season

Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar Jr. is also Kansas-bound

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) pumps his fist as the Jayhawks take control late in the second half against Providence on Friday, March 25, 2022 at United Center in Chicago. The Jayhawks defeated the Friars, 66-61.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) pumps his fist as the Jayhawks take control late in the second half against Providence on Friday, March 25, 2022 at United Center in Chicago. The Jayhawks defeated the Friars, 66-61.

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For the second year in a row, this time as a defending national champion, Kansas forward Jalen Wilson has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft pool in favor of a return to KU.

Wilson made his plans known shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday with a simple social media post that read, “I’m back.”

Wilson added, “My path has always been different,” and his latest decision certainly backs that up.

Not to be outdone, Kansas coach Bill Self responded with his own two-word phrase when asked by the Journal-World for his reaction to the news.

"I'm happy," Self said.

Later, through a KU news release, Self expanded on his thoughts.

"We are all very excited to hear the news today from Jalen and his family that he will be returning to school for the 2022-23 campaign,” Self said in the release. “He’s gone through the process and the process did exactly what it is intended to do. It gave him the feedback he needed to make an educated decision. We’re proud of the maturity Jalen showed in making the decision and very excited to put him a position to where he can enhance his opportunities to not only play, but have a long career in the NBA."

Wilson now becomes the rare college basketball player to twice test the NBA waters and elect to return to school both times.

The 6-foot-8 Denton, Texas, native will enter his junior season as by far the most experienced player on KU’s roster. He started for most of the past two seasons and held down a key role on KU’s run to the 2022 national title in April.

Wilson averaged 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Jayhawks during the 2021-22 season and was just a couple of rebounds shy of averaging a double-double throughout the NCAA Tournament.

With three of the other four starters from KU’s national title team moving on, Wilson returns with point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. as the core of next season’s team.

“Our team got a lot better today,” Self said in the release. “As well as Jalen played last year, he is just scratching the surface of the entire player he can be for our program. I’m looking forward to the intangibles he will bring to this team as he and Dajuan (Harris) become the vets and the leaders of our program.”

After a standout couple of days at the G League Elite Camp in Chicago in mid-May, Wilson was invited to stick around for the NBA combine. He performed well in the combine — particularly the scrimmages — but still was unable to crack the 58-pick mock drafts released by some of the top draft analysts.

At that point, it appeared that a best-case scenario for Wilson was to land a two-way contract with an NBA team and its G League affiliate, but with name, image and likeness opportunities running north of six figures in college athletics these days, Wilson likely stands to make more by returning to school than he would have by turning pro.

He also now has another year to work on his game and can either jump to the NBA or test the waters again next season.

Wilson's decision came roughly two hours before Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar Jr. announced his plans to come to KU, as well.

“I’m a Jayhawk,” the 6-foot-6, 210-pound wing wrote on Twitter a little before 7 p.m. “See you soon Lawrence! #RockChalk.”

McCullar committed to KU a couple of weeks ago with the contingency of joining the Jayhawks if he withdrew from the NBA draft. In the time between committing and withdrawing, McCullar was all over the country working out and meeting with NBA teams about his future.

"It's definitely tiring at times," McCullar told the Journal-World shortly after withdrawing his name from the draft pool. "It's tough, but it was a great process and I enjoyed every minute of it. But it's good to know where I'm going to be going now."

That place, of course, is Lawrence and McCullar, who hails from San Antonio, Texas, said he planned to arrive on campus in time for the start of summer workouts on Monday. The first session of KU's summer school classes starts Tuesday.

KU now has all of its 13 scholarships spoken for for the 2022-23 season. Many college basketball analysts project the Jayhawks to be highly ranked in the preseason, landing anywhere from fifth to the 10th as they open defense of their 2022 national title.

That challenge was not far from McCullar's mind throughout the process or Wednesday night.

"We're super stoked, super excited," he said of himself and his family. "They're just happy for me. You know, I'm one step closer to reaching my ultimate goal of playing in the NBA, but it's great to be going to play at Kansas and I'm so excited to try to go win another national championship."

None by jwill

None by Kevin McCullar Jr.

Comments

Dirk Medema 6 months ago

So much for Nostradamus “he’s gone”.

Good news for everyone else in crimson and blue.

“With three of the four starters from KU’s national title team moving on“ 3 of 5 or 3 of other 4?

Also, while by far the top returning scorer, I’m not sure he’s far more experienced than Dajuan. They appear to have very similar minutes and games played.

Was originally going to say most skilled, but even there DH showed that his D and A/TO are pretty exceptional. Jalen is still much more likely to be the leader; at least verbally.

Hopefully, he did pick up some cues from the last group and doesn’t try to do too much himself. It seems like we’ve had some groups falter in the past when the inherent leader became pretentious (?).

It seems our latest NCs excelled because of the way they came together. Remy, though a multi year all conference player and picked preseason to be POTY, seemed to work extra hard to fit in and defer. Mitch spent the majority of his time on the bench, but still was a leader. David and Ochai, though repeatedly listed as MOP of the NC, both immediately and in almost perfect unison directed credit for the turnaround to Dajuan.

I’m guessing Jalen and Kevin will be roommates much the same as Remy and Ochai last year. Our success next year would seem in large part tied to their ability to bond in leadership and bring the others along.

Matt Tait 6 months ago

"three of the other four" - Good catch. Thanks.

Matt Tait 6 months ago

One other thing, Dirk... I asked McCullar tonight if he and Wilson were rooming together and he said he didn't think so and that they were figuring that all out this week.

They go back a ways and they'll have plenty of time to bond and click so rooming together's probably not an essential part of it. Would've made sense, but McCullar seems like a super-personable dude and I'm sure he'll be good rooming with anybody.

Tony Bandle 6 months ago

Matt, assuming McCullars does come to KU what do you think of the KLU roster for next season. Thanks, as always.

Tony Bandle 6 months ago

OOPS.....pardon the Typo. Drop the "L" please. :}

Dirk Medema 6 months ago

Tony - Guessing Matt will have articles on the topic - in the future.

Early take; we go from being one of the oldest, most experienced to relatively inexperienced. How many teams had 7 seniors, including 6th year and 7th year seniors? Plus we lose another early entry.

Still, we do return 2 multi year starters, and add an honorable mention all-conference* (pending). Beyond those 3, it seems it’s complete question marks.

What do you think?

Dale Kroening 6 months ago

None by Kevin McCullar Jr.

Matt Tait 6 months ago

Working on all kinds of reaction stories to this news. Big day for the KU program, though. They're a legit top 10 team entering next season now and there's a lot to like about the roster. A few questions, too, but that's what makes it fun.

More to come...

Bryce Landon 6 months ago

YES, THE REPLY BUTTON WORKS AGAIN!

The biggest question I have will be if Kansas will be allowed to defend its title, or if they will suffer the indignity of being a non-defending champion as in 1989.

Rodney Crain 6 months ago

We are looking for 3 starters and we are top 10? Come On.

There is a fairly big hole in the lane. If one of the freshman can fill it, that's great, but anyone with an inside game will make rebounding a tad difficult, as well as rim protection. JW back helps but without Mitch and DMac, and no Braun/OA, that is a chunk of stats missing. Our rotation was down to 7 maybe 8 players at the end. Not to mention playing within Self's system out of the gate. Ask Remy, if you can find him on hard that might be. Maybe he will be on our bench handing out towels.

Too early Top 10, fine there is no need to put the parade vets away till August anyway. Any tally on all the NIL OP's our players on the roster have inked by the way from winning it all? Never mind it would pale in comparison to everyone else.

Bryce Landon 6 months ago

Welcome back, Jalen! Smart move on your part to come back, I didn't think you were NBA ready anyway. It'll be great to have two returning starters from the title team come back next year with Jalen and DaJuan.

And welcome to Kansas, Kevin! It'll be so nice to see you in crimson and blue instead of scarlet and black.

Dale Rogers 6 months ago

With McCullar also announcing he's withdrawing and is now a Jayhawk, does that put us over on scholarships or are we now right at full?

Matt Tait 6 months ago

McCullar makes 13 so KU is full and the roster is set. Pretty deep team again, with another good blend of experience and youth. They'll need a little longer to develop together, but they should be an easy preseason Top 10 team with a ton of potential.

Barry Weiss 6 months ago

wow, this is the best news possible.

Chad Smith 6 months ago

initial reaction is very positive. Wilson does everything on the court and will be a leader. mccullar, as I've stated just needs to be that lock down defender he's shown the past two seasons. I think under self he will actually get even better at that. he chips in some offense, that's a bonus. same with Harris, though he may be asked to score more. I think yesufu will need to score and that's what KU is leaning on from the perimeter. what do Rice and Dick bring? we'll find out. where do cuffe and pettiford fit in? the biggest question marks for me lay on the post players. will cam Martin be ready? how good is udeh? can kj Adams and clemency take the next steps in their development? the frontcourt feels like the weakest most unknown part on the team as it stands right now.

Dirk Medema 6 months ago

Thanks for the follow up Matt. Hadn’t thought about Kevin and Jalen knowing each other from TX.

Chad - Many similar thoughts. A somewhat unique aspect of Kevin and Jalen is they are fairly similar point forwards, though their positions might be listed differently. It will be nice to have Pettiford back as a primary ballhandler behind Dajuan.

It would seem those 4 ballhandlers free Yesufu, Dick, and Rice to be shooters/scorers. Dick, is probably ahead as a pure shooter and Rice more a strong slasher.

With Jalen owning the 4 spots, there’s really probably only 50-60 minutes to worry about production from the rest of the front court/post. If one of them steps up more than Yesufu, Dick, and Rice, then Jalen could slide to the 3, free up minutes for Martin, Udeh, Zuby, KJ, Clemence. I think Udeh is more Dok-like, Zuby more a blend of KJ and Clemence.

Dirk Medema 6 months ago

Dale - Kevin essentially fills the spot CB vacated by deciding to stay in the draft.

Rodney Crain 6 months ago

I wouldn't say fills the spot. Kevin disappears in games.

Joe Baker 6 months ago

AWESOME! Wow! We should be in a good position again. I selfishly believe this is right for both players. The portal and the NBA has found a great advantage for players to develop, yet still maintain their NCAA eligibility. Got their feedback and time to develop those skills. Just coming back was the beginning of increasing their stock.

RCJHGOKU

Joe Baker 6 months ago

Welcome to Lawrence and the Phog KMac

RCJHGOKU

ONEMORE

Jeff Foster 6 months ago

My way-to-early starting five: Wilson McCullar Clemence Dick Harris

First off the bench: Pettiford Adams/Martin Rice

But I like most any combo, Freshman are almost always a crapshoot on how fast they adjust, but it's an exciting team! #rockchalk #runitback

Dirk Medema 6 months ago

Rodney - Dale’s question was about scholarships not game performance, so relative to the question, the answer is accurate in a keeping up with the discussion kinda way.

As for disappearing in games, didn’t CB have a tendency to do that as well? Like the first half of the NC game? Obviously, he explodes at other times, but based on your comment, maybe the game performance is similar also.

Ying and Yang similarities?

Rodney Crain 6 months ago

Ying and Yang are not half of the hole, they are complementary. They enhance or emphasize the qualities of each other. Not sure you are using them correctly here.

Let me clearify, CB rarely disappeared for the entire game like Kevin. I like his defense but if he can't be trusted to score he plays if we have enough scoring to carry him. CB we could. Kevin can't be.

Brad Watson 6 months ago

Why would Mark Adams let Kevin get away...is he a fit here?...he says he is...but I am not sure...but if Coach wants him...well...he is the best coach in America...so...welcome McCullar to the Land of Oz....and hopefully it lights fires under Harris and Yesufu to work extremely hard on their games in every area...and Kevin also needs to up his game to insure minutes of PT...you play for Coach ...there are no guarantees...the best players play and you want to be part of the rotation...hard work is the only option...we have to outwork everyone. to play here...I wish I could workout with these guys and push them to the maximum...Coach...I am available!!!!

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