Early-entry prospects who declared for the NBA draft but did not hire an agent have only five days left to decide whether to withdraw or not. Here’s a look at the undecided players whose choices will have the biggest impact on the 2017-18 college basketball season:
1. Caleb Swanigan, F, Purdue: Swanigan would be the first AP first-team All-American to return to school since Doug McDermott if he withdrew from the draft, but he may not have enough to gain for that to be wise. He’d vault Purdue back into Big Ten title consideration and instantly become the favorite to win national player of the year, but it would be difficult for him to improve his draft stock. Swanigan put up 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds during a brilliant sophomore season, scoring efficiently from the perimeter and with his back to the basket. What’s preventing him from being a surefire first-round pick are questions about whether he has the mobility and lateral quickness to defend in space.
2. Tony Bradley, F, North Carolina: Whatever Bradley decides, it’s almost win-win for the Tar Heels. If he comes back to school, he should be one of the ACC’s elite big men as a sophomore, a 6-foot-10 double-double machine. If he stays in the draft, North Carolina will be thin inside, but Roy Williams will have the tangible evidence he needs to combat the perception he holds potential one-and-done prospects back and prevents them pursuing their NBA aspirations. While North Carolina has played for the national title both of the past two seasons, the Tar Heels have struggled of late in their recruitment of five-star prospects. So even if Bradley leaves after just one year, the short-term damage could be a long-term gain.
3. Aaron Holiday, G, UCLA and Thomas Welsh, C, UCLA: Exactly how freshman-heavy UCLA is next season will be determined by whether Holiday and Welsh return or not. If both stay, the Bruins will have a pair of veteran leaders to pair with a top-five recruiting class. If both leave, then the Bruins will have lost their top seven scorers from last season’s Sweet 16 team and will be perilously short on depth all over the floor. Neither Welsh nor Holiday are projected to be drafted, but Holiday is considered the more likely of the two to leave anyway. Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season as UCLA’s sixth man. Welsh averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds while showing off a lethal mid-range game.
4. Hamidou Diallo, G, Kentucky: Diallo may leave Kentucky without ever playing a game. The heralded wing enrolled at the start of the spring semester and practiced with the Wildcats during the second half of last season, but he chose to redshirt in order to avoid jeopardizing his draft stock. Diallo is a potential first-round pick if he stays in the draft because of his physical tools and sky-high upside. His massive wingspan, explosive first step to the rim and high-level motor make it easy to imagine a team in the latter half of the first round falling in love with his long-term potential. If he returns to Kentucky, there will be no hiding anymore. He could be a lottery pick in 2018 if he shows improved skill level or damage his stock by revealing he’s more athlete than basketball player.
5. Rawle Alkins, G, Arizona: While the Wildcats already know they’ll have Allonzo Trier back next year, they’re still waiting to find if they’ll also get back their other talented wing. Alkins must decide whether to stay in the draft, where he is a projected second-round pick, or return to Arizona, where he would be a key cog for a team that could start the season in the top five in the polls. A powerfully built yet athletic wing with the strength to finish through contact, Alkins was Arizona’s third leading scorer last year. He is most lethal bulldozing his way to the rim in transition, but he also is a capable playmaker, a 38 percent 3-point shooter and a good perimeter defender. If Alkins stays, he’ll start alongside Trier at wing. If he leaves, Arizona will ramp up its pursuit of elite freshman Brian Bowen or Pittsburgh transfer Cam Johnson.
Other key decisions:
Andrew Jones, G, Texas: Watch out for Texas if the high-scoring Jones returns to join a young core that also includes incoming freshmen Mohamed Bamba and Matt Coleman.
Deng Adel, G, Louisville: Having already lost Donovan Mitchell and Jaylen Johnson to the NBA draft, Louisville cannot afford to lose another scoring threat early.
D.J. Wilson, F, Michigan and Moritz Wagner, F, Michigan: They both would probably be selected in this year’s draft on potential but would either be physically strong enough to make an impact in the NBA yet?
Justin Jackson, F, Maryland: The consensus is Jackson is talented but not ready. He could solidify himself as a first-round pick with a strong sophomore season at Maryland.
Trevon Bluiett, G, Xavier: Despite revamping his body and producing a brilliant NCAA tournament in which he averaged 21.3 points per game, Bluiett is still not certain to be selected if he stays in the draft.
– – – – – – –