Three of the top six players selected in Thursday night’s NBA Draft played two seasons of college basketball, and 14 of the first 26 players taken in the first round spent multiple years at the NCAA level. So while the top three prospects were each one and done, there were plenty more who proved that an extended stay in the college game isn’t a death sentence for players with NBA ambitions.
In fact, with college players now able to profit off their name, image and likeness, hanging around in school for an additional year or two can be lucrative in the short term for certain players, while also bringing the potential for long-term development. Keegan Murray (No. 4 to Sacramento), Jaden Ivey (No. 5 to Detroit) and Bennedict Mathurin (No. 6 to Arizona) are perfect examples of the phenomenon, as they improved their game and boosted their value in incalculable ways as sophomores on NCAA Tournament teams this past season.
As attention now turns to the 2023 draft class, the earliest college players selected are likely to again be one-and-done players such as Arkansas‘ Nick Smith, Duke’s Dariq Whitehead and Baylor’s Keyonte George. However, there are a plethora of returning college players who appear capable of parlaying an additional year in school into lottery consideration.
With the success of Murray, Ivey and Mathurin on Thursday night as a backdrop, here are 10 players returning to college who have the tools to play themselves into lottery consideration during the season ahead.
The twin brother of No. 4 overall pick Keegan Murray flirted with staying in the 2022 NBA Draft before opting to return for his junior season at Iowa. Like his brother, Kris made a massive jump from his freshman to sophomore year, Now, with Keegan in the NBA, he’ll have his shot to become a focal point of the Iowa offense. The obvious drawback is that he’ll be 23 on opening night of the 2023-24 NBA season, which will make him ancient in scouting years. But as a versatile and efficient 6-foot-8 forward, he could certainly become a lottery-level player.
As the leading returning scorer for the defending national champions, Wilson is poised to become a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate in the 2022-23 college basketball season. As a versatile 6-foot-8 forward, he has the tools to become a solid NBA player. If Wilson can improve his career 29.8% 3-point shooting mark in the season ahead, look for him to garner first-round consideration in 2023.
Emoni Bates, Memphis (in transfer portal)
Bates flopped as a freshman at Memphis relative to the sky-high expectations he generated as a prospect over the years leading up to his enrollment. But he’s still a dynamic 6-foot-9 player with the long-term upside to grow into a lottery pick. He wasn’t even eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft because he doesn’t turn 19 until January, so Bates has plenty of time to continue developing.
Ingram is a 6-foot-8 forward with good ball skills and the ability to score at multiple levels. If the reigning Pac-12 Rookie of the Year can follow the E.J. Liddell blueprint and become a national breakout player as a sophomore, then he’ll play his way into the first-round conversation. He’s built similarly to Liddell, meaning he doesn’t play above the rim but has a nice blend of skill and toughness.
The reigning ACC Sixth Man of the Year is poised to play a featured role for Florida State next season after averaging 11.5 points as a freshman. The former five-star prospect brings good size as a rangy 6-foot-6 wing. You know he’s being taught defense under Leonard Hamilton at FSU, and if he can improve his outside shooting after making 6 of 34 attempts from 3-point range last season, he can be a breakout prospect.
A top-30 prospect from the Class of 2020, Bagley has been limited to just 15 games through two seasons at Arizona State due to injury. But as a 6-foot-8 forward with a promising outside shot, Bagley could make some noise if he’s able to stay on the floor for a full season and show some defensive versatility.
Strawther stepped into Gonzaga’s starting lineup as a sophomore and thrived, scoring 11.8 points per game on 49.8% shooting. At 6-foot-7, the former four-star prospect should be able to guard multiple positions at the next level. We’ll see how well-rounded his offensive game truly is next season, as he is likely to play an even larger role for the Zags following the departures of Andrew Nembhard and Chet Holmgren.
Scheierman upped his 3-point mark to 46.9% as a junior at South Dakota State last season while doing it all for a Jackrabbits squad that finished 30-5. Now at Creighton, the 6-foot-6 wing will have a chance to garner significant draft attention if his elite shooting and versatility translate to a higher level of college basketball.
Jackson-Davis makes the list because if he ever adds an outside shot, he has all the tools to be a modern NBA center. The only problem is that through 94 college games, he’s attempted just three 3-pointers and missed each of them. Will Indiana coach Mike Woodson, a veteran of the NBA, cultivate that portion of his star player’s game next season? Don’t bet on it. But if it happens, Jackson-Davis can be a first-round pick.
Mosley averaged 20.4 points for Missouri State last season while hitting 42.7% of his 3-pointers, 54.2% of his 2-pointers and 90.2% of his free throws. That’s an incredibly efficient offensive game for a 6-foot-5 player who was playing at a high offensive volume. If he even comes close to replicating that efficiency at Missouri next season, look for Mosley to generate some draft buzz.