Kevin McCullar returning to Kansas after withdrawing from NBA draft

May 24, 2023, 10:59 AM

Kansas forward Kevin McCullar Jr. has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will return to the Jayhawks for his final season, the school announced on Wednesday, likely cementing Kansas as the preseason No. 1 in men's college basketball.

McCullar attended the NBA draft combine, but was not a lock to be selected; ESPN had him No. 70 in its draft rankings. For Kansas, however, his return gives Bill Self's team one of the best defenders in the country as well as experience and continuity.

"How about one more year Jayhawk nation," McCullar said. "To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog. Rock Chalk! Let's do it!"

A 6-foot-6 wing from Texas, McCullar started 33 games last season for Kansas, averaging 10.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 steals. It was his first season in Lawrence after spending the first three seasons of his career at Big 12 rival Texas Tech. McCullar earned third-team All-Big 12 honors last season and was named honorable mention all-league in 2021 and 2022.

He's also one of the elite defenders in college basketball, being named a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist each of the past two seasons.

"This is a big day for Kansas basketball," Self said. "We've had a lot of good things happen through recruiting this offseason, but nothing that has transpired this offseason was bigger for KU basketball than having a seasoned veteran like Kevin McCullar return to our program."

With McCullar back in the fold, Kansas has a strong chance to be the No. 1 team entering next season. The Jayhawks rose to No. 2 in ESPN's Way-Too-Early Top 25 after the addition of Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, the best player in the portal, but McCullar puts them over the top. He joins Dajuan Harris and K.J. Adams as returning starters from last season's Big 12 champions, while Dickinson, Arterio Morris (Texas) and Nicolas Timberlake (Towson) should all be impact transfers. Kansas also adds a top-15 recruiting class, led by No. 25 overall recruit Elmarko Jackson.