Back to school

Back to school

Here's the class of returning to class class of 2022

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The Chet Holmgren vs. Paolo Banchero vs. Jabari Smith debate as to who will be the first player taken in tomorrow’s NBA Draft has been the talk of the entire season (and offseason). Three one-and-dones from great schools representing the way it’s been done for decades, two of them not yet 20 years old. You get the single college year under your belt and you’re off to the pros. It’s the road more traveled, at least by successful NBA stars. But that’s all changing now under NIL.

Several college basketball players who, in previous years, would have been expected to declare for the draft and perhaps even score a first-round contract — they’re sticking around. There’s money to be made in college now, which means that there’s no huge rush to get out of there and start earning cash, even settling for development leagues with the small amount of guaranteed rookie contracts available.

Especially for top talents who might not quite be ready to compete at the highest level but are standouts in college, NIL has made a once-challenging decision a whole lot easier. Not only are you coming back to gain more experience, raise your draft stock, and maybe get a degree, you’re coming back for cold, hard cash — or, at least, the opportunity to earn it.

We took a look at some NCAA guys who were eligible and even a good fit for this year’s draft who decided to return for another year and a chance at the Big Dance.

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Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

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This past season’s National Player of the Year and SEC Player of the Year, the former West Virginia center is returning for a fourth year in college after a brutal first-round loss in the tournament to St. Peter’s. The first Player of the Year to return to college after winning the award since 2008, Tshiebwe is projected to make something in the $2 million range from NIL deals.

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Drew Timme, Gonzaga

Drew Timme, Gonzaga

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Timme is one of those college stars whose talent you’re not quite sure will transfer to the pros — but no problem. Senior year? Automatic. In his as-yet-fruitless quest to lead the Zags to a national championship, he’s built an impressive resume (averaging 599 points per season) and a strong leadership status on the team. There will always be talented one-and-done freshmen, but Timme’s presence on the team and on the court will only grow — and grow his draft stock — as he continues in the NCAA.

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Armando Bacot & Caleb Love, UNC

Armando Bacot & Caleb Love, UNC

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The dynamic pair that led the Tar Heels to two improbable victories over Duke and a March Madness final will both be returning — Bacot as a redshirt senior, and Love as a true junior. Both launched their draft stock up the charts during that 8-seed run in March, but Bacot was profiled in Sports Illustrated yesterday in an article about how much he’s already made and is projected to make over his final year in college. Neither are still playing under the coach who recruited them, which makes their staying all the more impressive. If they can lead UNC to a better regular season than last year’s and top it off with another Final Four run, the 2023 draft should be kind to them both.

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Terquavion Smith, N.C. State

Terquavion Smith, N.C. State

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A projected first-round pick, Smith shocked the Wolfpack faithful last month after announcing he would return for his sophomore season. As one of the best players in the ACC, he might be able to prove that he has more than just ball skills out there. His coach has made it clear that he’ll be expected to step into a leadership role for N.C. State, and a more mature and experienced Smith will likely be entering the draft next spring.

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Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

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The new face of a once-legendary program on a steady climb back to the top of the conference, if not the sport, Jackson-Davis will come back for his senior season. Whether we can still say, “if there’s one thing Indiana cares about, it’s basketball,” I’m not yet sure, but Jackson-Davis’ presence on a team that a whole state is constantly hoping will return to glory has a lot of potential. He’s already connected with an NIL deal through Hoosiers for Good, which joins athletes with local charities to help raise awareness for social issues. He initially declared for the draft but announced his return to IU in May.

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