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Kevin McCullar Discusses His Decision to Return to Kansas


By: Nathan Swaffar


( – Despite entering the 2023 NBA Draft process for the second straight season, Kevin McCullar ultimately decided to return to KU and use his final season of college eligibility. McCullar’s return seemed unlikely when he initially told reporters he was entering his name into the draft. Last week, McCullar said he could’ve been drafted in the second round of this Thursday’s draft, but a good situation was not a guarantee. So he elected to return to KU with the hope of boosting his stock even more.

In his first season for the Jayhawks, McCullar proved to be a standout. He averaged a career-high 10.7 points per game on 44.4 percent shooting from the floor. He was KU’s second-leading rebounds with seven rebounds per game while adding 2.4 assists and two steals per game. He also added an All-Big 12 third-team selection, an All-Big 12 defensive team selection and was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

McCullar was invited to the NBA Combine and went through the draft process before making the decision to return to Lawrence. He said that his decision to return was a discussion he not only had with his family but with head coach Bill Self as well.

“Really just talking to my family, praying about it and really just talking to Coach [Self],” McCullar said. “He has a plan for me and I want to come here and win a national championship.”

He said felt confident he could be picked during the draft, but the uncertainties of a guaranteed NBA roster spot did not outweigh the opportunity to return and strengthen his game for a stronger shot in next year’s draft.

“I knew I could have got picked in the second round for sure,” McCullar said. “But the second round, you never know what can go on in that business. It’s a business up there. So I wanted to come back one more year and try to solidify myself.”

McCullar now has the chance to follow in the footsteps of previous KU players who declined to leave school for the draft and instead stay for another year.

Prime examples of recent players who also made that decision are Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson. Looking at Agbaji’s production spike from his junior to senior season, he went from 14.1 points per game to 18.8 and saw jumps in rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. He also earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors and was a consensus First-Team All-American.

Wilson took an even bigger jump from his sophomore to his junior year. His points per game average jumped from 11.1 to 20.1 and also tallied more rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Just like Agbaji, Wilson also earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors and was a consensus First-Team All-American.

Besides the prospect of following their footsteps, McCullar said that Wilson had a part to play in his return as well, giving him advice on what the best decision would be.

“He just told me to do what’s best for me at the end of the day,” McCullar said. “It was the best idea to come back here and compete for a national championship with the team that we have. We have the pieces and now it’s just about coming together and doing it.”

From Self’s point of view, McCullar’s return is one that will make a noticeable difference for the team and it will ultimately help him improve his draft stock for next year’s NBA Draft.

“He’ll make a big difference for us,” Self said. “He’s obviously got some things he can improve on or he wouldn’t come back. He’ll take it seriously, he wants to be a player. He’s got to get more consistent shooting the basketball, he made some improvements in that area but probably needs to take another step. But I’m excited.”