Tuesday, June 25, 2024

NBA Draft 2024 withdrawal deadline winners and losers: UConn gets a starter back; Memphis star not returning

Wednesday marked the last chance for college basketball players to withdraw from the NBA Draft, and deadline day delivered with some drama as several big names took their decisions down to the wire. But as the dust settled and the 2024 draft pool became crystalized, college basketball as a whole proved to be a winner.

Among the big-names opting to return were All-Americans such as Mark Sears of Alabama and Caleb Love of Arizona. Both have been getting buckets in college basketball for years and have been to Final Fours during their already illustrious careers. Now, both will be back to use their fifth and final season of eligibility.

Just like Zach Edey’s decision in 2023 to return for a fourth season at Purdue proved to be consequential, the decisions Sears and Love announced Wednesday could still be reverberating through the sport when the 2025 Final Four arrives. But of course, it wasn’t all good news for everyone around the country.

A handful of programs saw major contributors opt to stay in the draft. Given the relative scarcity of talent remaining in the transfer portal, replacing an NBA-bound player at this point in the year can be tough.

Here are the winners and losers from a draft deadline day that brought us one step closer to a full picture of what college basketball rosters will look like in the 2024-25 season.

Winner: Tide rolling with return of Sears, Stevenson

The Crimson Tide secured the biggest win of their offseason on Wednesday when Sears announced he would be withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning to school. Sears was one of the top players in college basketball last season, and his return could have Alabama in contention to be the preseason No. 1 ranked team this fall. 

In addition, Jarin Stevenson — a formerly highly touted recruit from the 2023 recruiting cycle who starred in Alabama’s Elite Eight win over Clemson — will also be returning. Stevenson primarily came off the bench during his freshman season and should see his role increase because of his ability to stretch the floor. Alabama reached the Final Four for the first time in program history last month, and they’re on track to get back to the final weekend in college basketball. — Cameron Salerno

Loser: Memphis loses potential AAC POTY

With 2023-24 AAC co-Players of the Year Chris Youngblood (South Florida to Alabama) and Johnell Davis (FAU to Arkansas) both transferring out of the league, David Jones was in prime position to be AAC Preseason Player of the Year if he’d returned to Memphis. Instead, the 6-5 guard is staying in the draft. Jones led the league in scoring at 21.8 points per game during the 2023-24 season, and his departure leaves the Tigers with a significant hole to fill. Seventh-year coach Penny Hardaway has done a nice job rebuilding his team with big-time transfer additions such as PJ Haggerty (Tulsa), Tyrese Hunter (Texas) and Dain Dainja (Illinois). But there may now be some pressure on him to round out this roster with an additional dose of portal pop. — David Cobb

Winner: Arizona gets some Love heading into the Big 12

Tommy Lloyd and company got a massive boost on Wednesday when Pac-12 Player of the Year Caleb Love announced his return to Arizona. Love had a chance to turn pro but will return to school to help usher in a new era of Arizona basketball as the program will join the Big 12 ahead of the 2024-25 campaign. Love would’ve had an uphill climb in carving out a significant role in the NBA during his rookie season and instead will be one of the favorites to win the Naismith College Player of the Year award. Kylan Boswell, Pelle Larsson Oumar Ballo and Keshad Johnson may be gone, but getting Love back assures the Wildcats will be competing for the Big 12 title in Year 1. — Salerno

Loser: Illinois will see Hawkins play elsewhere 

Illinois star Coleman Hawkins withdrew from the NBA Draft on Wednesday but will play his final college season elsewhere. After going through the pre-draft process for the second consecutive year, Hawkins elected to return to school and will be one of the top transfer portal targets available. Hawkins is a veteran forward who has shown an ability to stretch the floor and defend multiple positions. Hawkins played a key role in Illinois reaching the Elite Eight this past season, and he will now focus on finding his next (and final) home. — Salerno

Purdue v Connecticut

UConn’s Alex Karaban will be the only starter returning from this year’s title team. Getty Images

Winner: UConn gets at least one starter back

Had Alex Karaban elected to stay in the NBA Draft, UConn would have launched its bid for a national title three-peat without a single starter back from its 2023-24 roster. But with Karaban’s announcement that he’s withdrawing from the draft, the Huskies have a reliable veteran forward to anchor their 2024-25 lineup. Karaban averaged 13.3 points on 37.9% 3-point shooting for UConn as a redshirt sophomore and was particularly effective from beyond the arc against Big East foes. 

The Huskies recovered impeccably well from the losses of stalwarts Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins and Adama Sanogo following the 2022-23 season. Karaban’s return helps position them to be national competitors yet again, even after another heavy wave of losses from the 2023-24 season. — Cobb

Loser: Dayton‘s Holmes stays in the draft

DaRon Holmes made the right decision and should be rewarded once the draft arrives. Still, it’s a tough day for Dayton. Holmes was the 2024 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and a three-time all-conference performer. Without him, the Flyers will be entering a new era with a massive hole to fill. Coach Anthony Grant landed Butler transfer guard Posh Alexander and Ohio State transfer forward Zed Key in the portal, so the Flyers should remain competitive. But there isn’t a scorer or rim protector of Holmes’ caliber projected to be part of next year’s team, let alone someone who can do both. — Cobb

Winner: Texas Tech lands a young star in Toppin

JT Toppin didn’t enter the transfer portal until April 30, just one day before the deadline. But after winning Mountain West Rookie of the Year, the 6-9 forward immediately became one of the hottest names on the market. 

However, there was one big problem for the collegiate teams vying for his services: he also chose to explore the NBA Draft. While doing so, Toppin made an impression on NBA scouts and established himself as a draft-worthy prospect. But this week’s news that he signed with Texas Tech marked a huge win for second-year coach Grant McCasland as he seeks to build off a 23-11 debut campaign, which included a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Toppin should play a prominent role for the Red Raiders and could play his way into an even better draft position in the years ahead. — Cobb

Winner: Wake Forest brings back Sallis

In one of the surprising decisions of the day, Wake Forest star Hunter Sallis elected to bypass the NBA Draft to return to school for another season. The former Gonzaga forward found a home with the Demon Deacons this past season and averaged 18 points and 4.1 rebounds. Sallis immediately becomes one of the top contenders to win ACC Player of the Year. Sallis ranked No. 50 in CBS Sports’ NBA Draft Prospect Rankings. — Salerno

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