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Hunter Dickinson returning to Kansas: Why the All-American big man is the latest offseason win for Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self secured his latest offseason win with the announcement that All-American big man Hunter Dickinson would be returning for the 2024-25 season. The announcement of Dickinson’s intention to run it back with the program on Friday comes hours after Self received his fourth transfer portal commitment from Alabama star wing Rylan Griffen

“Yeah you’re right coach,” Dickinson wrote on social media. “I guess it’s time to tell everyone I’m coming back! Rock Chalk!”

After an exit in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Self and company are reloading after opening last season as the preseason No. 1 team. Dickinson, a second team AP All-American and CBS Sports third team All-American, averaged 17.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists during his first season in Lawrence, Kansas, after spending the previous three seasons at Michigan

Dickinson will have one season of eligibility remaining. Kansas will return four of its six leading scorers (Dickinson, K.J. Adams Jr., Dajuan Harris, and Elmarko Jackson) from last season in addition to Griffen, Wisconsin’s AJ Storr, Florida’s Riley Kugel, and South Dakota State’s Zeke Mayo.

Storr is the highest-ranked player of the bunch and checked in as the No. 4 overall player in the transfer portal by CBS Sports David Cobb. The former Wisconsin and St. John’s standout should help replace the production lost from stars Kevin McCullar Jr. and Johnny Furphy, who are both entering the 2024 NBA Draft.

Kansas is the No. 1 team in the CBS Sports way-too-early Top 25 And 1 preseason rankings.

Why Dickinson returning is the smart move

Dickinson coming back to school for one final season gives him one final chance to improve his NBA Draft stock. If Dickinson entered the 2024 NBA Draft, he would’ve been a late second-round pick in the best-case scenario because of questions about his defense and his lack of outside shooting.

At the college level, Dickinson is a dominant inside presence that should solidify Kansas’ standing as the preseason No. 1 team, and he joins North Carolina’s RJ Davis as the only returning All-American player in the sport. Dickinson will be one of the favorites to win Naismith Player of the Year after the two-reigning winner (Purdue’s Zach Edey) departed for the 2024 NBA Draft. It made sense for Dickinson to return, and the Jayhawks will benefit from the decision.

Self reloads Kansas roster

When Self said that he was looking ahead to next season for about a month before falling to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament (maybe?) he wasn’t joking. The move made over the last three weeks to reload the roster suggests the Jayhawks will be one of the favorites to cut down the nets next spring.

“For the last month, I’ve been thinking about next season, to be honest,” Self said after the loss to Gonzaga. “Not in the moments during the game. Obviously, we had eight guys on scholarship, I mean that were healthy there late. Injuries are part of the game so that’s not an excuse. But we could’ve done a much better job as a staff of putting more guys out there that we could play. And that’s something that I’ve thought about for a long time.”

The headliner from Kansas’ transfer portal class is Storr, who is coming off a season in which he averaged 16.8 points. Griffen was a key member of Alabama’s Final Four roster, and Mayo averaged 18.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Kugel’s status remains fluid, but if the Jayhawks do indeed land the former Florida guard, it would be another key piece to the roster. 

Four-star guard Labaron Philon recently asked to be released from his National Letter of Intent, giving Kansas only two members in its upcoming 2024 recruiting class: Five-star center Flory Bidunga and four-star guard Rakease Passmore. Bidunga is the third-ranked center in the cycle behind Duke’s Khaman Maluach and former Kentucky signee Jayden Quaintance. 

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