Kansas basketball coach Bill Self to Kevin McCullar Jr.: ‘I want you back’

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) celebrates following the Jayhawks win over Texas Tech to clinch a share of the Big 12 Conference championship on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023 at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has never been one to openly campaign for players with eligibility remaining to return to KU for another season.

And, technically, he didn’t exactly do that on Thursday night at the annual team banquet. But the Hall of Fame coach did make it known to senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr. that he has a spot at Kansas if he wants to stay in college.

“I want you back,” Self told the large crowd of Kansas basketball supporters when talking about McCullar during his 30-minute presentation that included some memories, some honors and a whole bunch of thank-yous.

Asked after the event why he used such direct language, Self said he wanted to make sure it was clear to McCullar that he has options beyond leaving.

“I just think he fits us,” Self said, reiterating the words he used when McCullar committed to Kansas after transferring away from Texas Tech last offseason. “I don’t think it’s the percentage play that he comes back, but he needs to know that he’s welcome back.”

As has been the case with all of his early-entry players in the past, Self has talked with McCullar and encouraged him to make the right decision for himself, his future and his family.

“If the time’s right for him to go to the NBA or whatever it’s going to be then do it,” Self said of the message he has shared with McCullar and his family. “But (I just want him to) know that there’s no pressure on him to make it the right time. That’s the big thing with him.”

McCullar went through senior night festivities last month and said at the time that his college career was done.

But the Texas Tech transfer who started 33 games for the Jayhawks during his first season in Lawrence has one year of eligibility remaining and could elect to use it as a super-senior at KU.

Self said this week that he had talked to McCullar and his family about a possible return and that the plan, at least as of now, is for McCullar to go through the pre-draft process to see where his NBA stock currently sits.

McCullar confirmed that plan after Thursday’s banquet.

“I’m going through the NBA draft process and seeing where that takes me,” he said, adding that he was willing to keep his options open.

He plans to fly out to New Jersey on Sunday and he will spend the next several weeks going through pre-draft workouts, hoping to get an invitation to the NBA combine.

McCullar did the same thing last year, after announcing plans to come to Kansas, and ultimately decided to join the Jayhawks after getting feedback from NBA officials and participating at the NBA G League Elite Camp. A rolled ankle during the G League camp contributed to McCullar’s decision, but he met with several talent evaluators and NBA teams while taking his decision to withdraw from the 2022 draft right up to the deadline.

Invitations for the Elite Camp and the NBA combine have yet to be sent out, but McCullar should be on the radar of at least one of the two pre-draft events.

As for his current draft stock, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound guard from San Antonio, Texas, did not appear as a projected first-round pick on any of the major mock drafts throughout the 2022-23 season.

McCullar was on ESPN.com’s draft guru Jonathan Givony’s latest mock draft, penciled in at No. 58 overall as the final pick of the 2023 draft.

McCullar believes in his abilities and said he has learned a lot in the past year, both through his time at the G League camp and during his lone season with the Jayhawks.

“Last year, I just learned that you’ve got to be personable and be yourself,” he said. “I had some offers to get some two-way contracts but, really, just with the injury it set me back and I wasn’t able to get in front of all the teams I wanted to. This time it’ll be fun to be able to get in front of teams.”

McCullar said the chance to play at Kansas, in a different system and for a different head coach “worked out perfect for me.”

It was clear, both from his comments and those made by Self, that the two made a deep and meaningful connection during their one year together.

McCullar said that hearing Self tell the room that he wanted him back was “huge.”

“That’s just the coach that he is,” McCullar said. “He cares about his players and it just shows that he believes in me, so we’ll see.”

If the path leads him back to college, Self believes he could be the next in line to follow in the footsteps of veteran players like Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson before him.

“I don’t know that he’s a natural scorer where he can go get you 20 a game,” Self said. “But I see him having a senior year that would be impactful in the way theirs were.”


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.