Originally published June 1, 2022 at 04:54p.m., updated June 1, 2022 at 07:38p.m.
For the second year in a row, this time as a defending national champion, Kansas forward Jalen Wilson has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft pool in favor of a return to KU.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."